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Sony’s Virtual Production Business Booms with Its Hardware Advantage

Sony Group, the Japanese entertainment giant, is expanding its virtual production business, which offers realistic and immersive filming solutions to filmmakers and broadcasters. The company is leveraging its hardware muscle and Hollywood expertise to gain a competitive edge in the market.

What is Virtual Production?

Virtual production is a technology that uses a wall of light-emitting diode (LED) panels to display images, such as a science-fiction landscape or a downtown cityscape, that are integrated into the scene as it is shot. This eliminates the need for green screens, where digital effects are added at a later stage.

Virtual production has several advantages over traditional methods, such as more realistic reflections created by light from the panels and greater immersion for actors on set. It also allows for more creative freedom and flexibility in changing the background and lighting conditions.

Sony’s Virtual Production Business Booms with Its Hardware Advantage

Virtual production technology gained attention after its use in the science-fiction show “The Mandalorian” from Walt Disney, which used in-house visual effects firm Industrial Light & Magic.

How Sony Stands Out in the Market

Sony Group is increasing its focus on the virtual production business, where it is seeing market-beating growth, a company executive said. The company’s head of virtual production, Yasuharu Nomura, said that Sony’s strength lies in its hardware and moviemaking expertise.

“It’s because we have the hardware that we can recreate in the virtual world,” Nomura said in an interview.

Sony makes everything from image sensors for cameras to the supersized LED video walls that are used in virtual production. The company also has a strong presence in Hollywood, where it produces and distributes movies and TV shows through its Sony Pictures Entertainment division.

Sony is an investor in Epic Games, whose Unreal Engine is used to generate digital environments for virtual production. The company also collaborates with other partners, such as Netflix and Amazon, to provide virtual production services.

Sony says its virtual production business is growing by around 35% annually, faster than the overall market, with an increasing proportion of sales expected to come from services.

What’s Next for Sony’s Virtual Production Business

The company is rolling out better panels and cameras and service options while also offering “volumetric capture”, where performances are filmed from multiple angles for viewing in virtual reality.

Nomura said that Sony aims to create a “one-stop shop” for virtual production, where customers can access all the necessary hardware, software and services from one source.

He also said that Sony plans to expand its virtual production facilities globally, starting with Europe and Asia. The company currently operates a virtual production studio in Tokyo, Japan.

“The market is still in its infancy so there is opportunity for Sony to expand,” said Kota Ezawa, an analyst at Citigroup.

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