/News 30.05.24

Blazing a Trail: Docklands Studios Melbourne Pioneers Next-Gen Fire Simulation for Film and TV

Docklands Studios Melbourne have demonstrated the jaw-dropping virtual fire capabilities offered by their world-class LED volume screens, providing hyper-realistic fire effects for the feature film Windcatcher.

Initially based at Docklands Studios for cast read-throughs and pre-production, the Windcatcher production team were storyboarding the fire scene when they were offered an invitation to preview one of the studios’ LED volume screens.

It was a light-bulb moment for producer Meg O’Connell, who says that the choice to utilise the screens became obvious to production after considering their options. “We immediately wanted to do [the fire scene] in there, but it took us a while to make a decision while debating the pros and cons,” explains O’Connell. “How we justified it financially was running the numbers on VFX and realising that if we don’t spend this now in-camera, we’ll spend more on VFX down the track.”

Behind the scenes of Windcatcher at Docklands Studios Melbourne. Image courtesy of Stan

“[Shooting in the volume stage] gave us so much control compared to if we’d shot on location where we’d need a fire truck and a team of safety people to protect the actors.”

To create the scene, the DOP shot plates on-location in the forest, which could then be displayed on the giant LCD screens that line the sound stage, with the VFX team from Resin working with the screen’s owners NantStudios to turn the footage into screen-ready assets.

Practical elements were also used to their strengths, with the art department building-out a set with grasses from the location shoot and a rusty old car in the foreground.

Behind the scenes of Windcatcher at Docklands Studios Melbourne. Image courtesy of Stan

This combination of virtual production and practical sets led to a surprise benefit for the production team, with flickering light from the screens providing realistic set-lighting on the day.

“There’s so much latitude to be able to moderate and modulate to change the light,” explains O’Connell. “We did 25 per cent [of the scene] in the volume and 75 per cent on location, and we could have done 100 per cent on the volume, for the look of authenticity it gave.”

O’Connell says filming at Docklands Studios also helped things run smoothly.

“The convenience of being at the studio meant we could run between teams – and unit, catering, everyone was in the same place. All the crew loved it, especially as they were coming from different parts of Melbourne, to be all in one location was important.”

“Everyone at Docklands was so friendly and warm.”

Film at Docklands Studios

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (20 mins from international airport)

Stages: 6

Size: 8,000 sq ft – 40,000 sq ft

Features: Two volume screens, water pit, production offices, storage, dressing and make-up rooms, mess halls.

Filming Location For: Foe, Shantaram, La Brea S1 & S2, Clickbait, Preacher S4, The Leftovers S3, Upgrade, The Dressmaker

Contact: Antony Tulloch, Chief Executive Officer – [email protected]