First Man

Practicum Project | 2023

A life cycle analysis of virtual vs. physical production for film and television

The film industry has a significant impact on the environment, from the consumption of electricity during and after production, to the use of fuel for travel and on-location filming, to the waste generated by props and set construction. During the COVID-19 pandemic when travel was limited and social distancing practices were in place, virtual production gained popularity as a way to increase accessibility while creating immersive, high quality films. The use of LED Volumes has been a game-changer in virtual production by replacing conventional green screens with dynamic LED walls, eliminating the need for construction of multiple sets or landscapes and enabling backdrops to be changed in an instant. Through reducing the need for set construction and on location filming, virtual production is a vital resource for the future of sustainability in filmmaking. However, there is a current lack of resources addressing the environmental benefits of virtual production in comparison to conventional shooting.

This project aims to expand upon the Sustainable Production Alliance’s ‘Production Environmental Accounting Report’ (PEAR) to assess emissions generated by virtual production, with a focus on LED Volume production. Our team will conduct a comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to analyze the environmental impact of using virtual production versus traditional physical production. These scenarios include recreating a scene in virtual production to eliminate travel, using virtual production to replace dangerous or extensive set builds, and utilizing virtual production to create fantasy or hard-to-create scenes. Our goal is to provide SPA with an Excel tool that will measure and clearly indicate which sectors in virtual production are contributing to carbon emissions and waste, as well as a report analyzing the impact of each production scenario listed above. We hope to ultimately give production companies a clear path for reducing their environmental impacts, while promoting sustainable filmmaking.

View our Final Report

Student Team: Esther Cabello, Kyle Garg, Jinsuh Jung-Aum, Margot Kirby, Orla Lynagh-Shannon, Rachel Merrifield, Taylor McMahon, Pratika Nagpal

Client: Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA)

Advisor: Viraj Sawant