Led by a stellar team of Virtual Production Specialists – MESH are putting real-world virtual production experience in the hands of users. Sohonet speaks to its founders.
MESH is a team of virtual production specialists with the experience and contacts to launch a virtual production project in as little as six weeks. Among other services they provide a breakdown of scripts to identify virtual production opportunities that make sense creatively and financially. They match meaningful competitive bids from vendors to project requirements and help develop a show’s virtual production department by matchmaking crew to the project and delivering detailed budget overviews.
With a dozen years post-production experience that include Netflix and Disney, Co-Founder James Blevins served as post production supervisor on The Mandalorian. Co-Founder Ben Baker is an Epic Games Unreal Fellow and previously vice president of Studio Services at HBO. Recently, MESH worked on the virtual production for Francis Ford Coppola’s latest project Megalopolis. They share their insights here.
“You’ve got an entire industry trying to stand up a new workflow and work out what it means for their business with a lot of gaps in their knowledge,” Blevins and Baker say. “They don’t know how to put all the elements together, or how to interact with vendors, and they can’t find the right talent. Establishing this at the start-up phase of a show is where we can help.
“In particular, there’s a lack of access to talent in the market. That means that the entire industry only has the capacity to take on four to five AAA-class virtual production shows at any one time. There are many stages out there, with more coming daily, but studios are crying out for talent who can successfully work in this way.
“We are generally hired by VFX supervisors to help them navigate through a virtual production project, but we see a growing trend in art departments using virtual production very effectively and we want to encourage that too.
The duo notes, “It’s quite simple; schedule, budget, breakdowns, vendors, crew. The principles are the same as in ‘normal’ production, but with virtual production the conversation is driven by creating a schedule, which creates a cadence of delivery and involvement and note-giving for all assets. This requires that people come together in prep in a way that will be unfamiliar to many and may be outside the comfort zone. It also requires that you pay them for their time.
The breakdowns are next and the discovery of ‘what’s in the scene’. That reveals where virtual production can really be of value to our clients. The breakdowns also help unify all the different bid structures into a cohesive, comparable whole.
The biggest hurdles that productions are facing is crewing. This is where we have a real advantage. Between James’ connection to the original The Mandalorian crew, and Ben’s access to the Unreal Fellowship graduate pool through the fellowship alumni Slack, we punch above our weight in our ability to pull staff together in difficult places. It also means we really go down the wormhole into local unreal operator Discords and user groups to find the perfect people for our clients, wherever they are in the world.
Once the production team – VFX supervisors, line producers, etc., have done a few jobs – they may not need someone to hold their hand. In two years, all of this will be a general skill set with which the industry will be much more comfortable. As it stands today it is a bit of an arm wrestle. MESH is here to ensure a smooth transition.”