Wacom in the world of virtual production 

February 23, 2023

Virtual Production is an aspect of the rapid evolution of cinema, brought about by a serendipitous convergence of new technology and demand for streaming content — at a pace no one could have anticipated. What studios are finding is that with the right upfront planning and investments, movies can be made at the same or higher quality, in a fraction of the time and with minimal post-production with the use of digital assets, photogrammetry, and virtual sets.

Because the virtual production process is so new, studios are having to use legacy technology to “bridge the gap” until the right tools can be found. In some cases, it’s a matter of finding the “right tool” that has been right in front of them all along and applying it to new use cases.

By creating photo-realistic, interactive environments in Unreal Engine, based on real locations or the imagination, and leveraging Virtual LED Display walls rather than traditional green screens, cinematographers in Virtual Production have found that most of the reflections and appropriate lighting come for free. This greatly reduces post-production costs, not to mention all of the logistics associated with doing “on location” filming: travel, lodging, set design, catering, and much more.

Wacom Cintiq Pro and Intuos Pro in Virtual Production Workflows

Wacom Cintiq Pros and Intuos Pros, seasoned tools in Storyboard, VFX, and animation workflows, have found new jobs in this evolutionary process. Storyboard and concept design have been where Wacom tools have been prevalent in the filmmaking process for years, and they remain the tool of choice in nearly every studio on the planet.

Beyond the traditional use cases as sketching and storyboarding tools, Cintiq Pros are now being used on-set, in dailies production, and by Virtual Art Departments in various stages – with workflows being extended by features on the new Cintiq Pro 27 such as color accuracy. The Intuos Pro continues to be an ergonomic tool used for long hours of video editing and post-production.

Read on to learn more about the specific workflows that Wacom products are used for in Virtual Production today.

Cintiq Pro 16 for Filmmakers

Wacom Cintiq Pro 16

All the control and power you need in our most compact size, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 fits perfectly on a DIT cart. DITs can use the Pro Pen 2 to precisely mark or highlight areas when working with Directors on-set.

wacom cintiq pro 27

Wacom Cintiq Pro 27

This brand-new, professional-level pen display is Wacom’s first product tailored for virtual production filmmaking. The Cintiq Pro 27 is our brightest and most color-accurate display yet – allowing it to be used on-set for color reference.

intuos pro

Wacom Intuos Pro

This super-slim, compact pen tablet is a joy to use and is built to last. Comes in a variety of sizes for any application, and the built-in ExpressKeys mean it’s completely customizable for any workflow, no matter what software you use. Plus, the ergonomics for long days of scene reviews and edits far exceed a mouse.

Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 On-Set for Cinematography

The compact size of the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 has allowed for new uses on-set as part of a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) cart. The device’s slim footprint and tactileness makes it a perfect fit when space is at a premium. At a compact 16” size, it also provides a tangible feel that’s fun and intuitive to use.

Dane Brehm working on Cintiq Pro 16 on DIT cart

A DIT can use the Pro Pen 2 to highlight and select areas for the Director of Photography to give feedback on or to move the Color wheels during the lighting process. Read this interview with Dane Brehm, an ICG Digital Imaging Technician, to learn how he’s using the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 on-set.

Wacom Cintiq Pro and 3D Printing on Virtual Production Sets

A need that many virtual production studios are looking to overcome includes the various props and set pieces that need to be created on the fly when filming a movie or TV show. Together, Wacom and Stratasys enable virtual production studios to create photorealistic virtual and physical assets for use in Virtual Production workflows.

Cintiq Pro 3D printing modeling

Read more about Wacom Cintiq Pro and 3D Printing with Stratasys on the Gods of Mars set.

Cintiq Pro 27 in Virtual Art Departments

As filmmaking has evolved to include Virtual Production workflows, art departments have expanded from physical sets and props into including 3D digital assets and complete digital worlds, courtesy of the Virtual Art Departments (VADs). These VADs support film and TV show creation from the pre-production phase and throughout filming, creating virtual sets and in-frame hero assets in Unreal Engine.

One of the leading Virtual Art Departments in the virtual production space, Narwhal Studios, has experimented with using the Wacom Cintiq Pro 27 in their VAD workflows. In this interview, Safari Sosebee, Co-Founder and CCO at Narwhal, explains how “efficiency is the biggest benefit with the Cintiq Pro. For example, oftentimes during a pre-light session, the cinematographer will want to give feedback and make changes using a color-calibrated monitor. The simplicity of the workflow with the Cintiq Pro makes this process streamlined and efficient.”

Cintiq Pro 3D printing modeling

Within a Virtual Art Department, both the VAD Supervisor and VAD Lighting Lead could each use a Cintiq Pro. The process from each of these roles involves working directly with the Production Designer and Cinematographer to implement feedback and changes throughout production.

The new Cintiq Pro 27, with 100% Rec. 709 and 98% DCI-P3 color accuracy, helps make these VAD workflows more streamlined and efficient.

Building Custom Interfaces on Cintiq Pro for Unreal Engine

Spurred by the pandemic a few years ago, some creators pivoted from live action projects to animation to hone their skills and stay relevant. Using a Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 – along with custom interfaces created in Touch OSC – allowed creator HaZ Dulull to use Unreal Engine in a unique way to create the exact look and feel he desired for his feature film, RIFT.

These custom Touch OSC interfaces allowed HaZ to choreograph specific actions, like lighting tweaks and explosions, all in an immersive experience using pen and touch on-screen on the Wacom Cintiq Pro. You can learn more about HaZ’s creative process on RIFT, using Unreal Engine, Touch OSC, and Cintiq Pro together, here.

3D Scanning and Virtual Props with Wacom Cintiq Pro

In the initial phases of virtual production, digital assets for movies and TV shows were painstakingly designed and refined, manually, using 3D tools and digital clay. Teams of creators were needed to make each item, and the process was linear and took many hours.

Now, creators are equipped with state-of-the-art tools that allow them to feel like they’re creating in the real world. Wacom Cintiq Pros are being used in the new digital process called photogrammetry – which allows for real-world assets to be scanned, refined, and used in scenes on virtual production sets.

Photogrammetry and Wacom Cintiq Pro

Click here to learn more about the 3D scanning process using Wacom Cintiq Pro, along with tools like Reality Capture, ZBrush, and Adobe Substance painter.

The Future of Virtual Production and Wacom Products

Wacom’s Pro products are currently being used in many phases of the virtual production process. But we’ve barely scratched the surface on what our tools can do as this industry continues to iterate. As we look to the future, we’re collaborating with innovative studios and experimenting with ways the Cintiq Pro and Intuos Pro can be used. With high-tech tools and an industry full of innovators, the options are endless. We’re excited to see what the future of virtual production brings.

erica t headshot

About the author

Erica Tafavoti is the Business Development Marketing Manager at Wacom. In her 8+ years as a professional marketer in tech, she’s worked on teams big and small, dabbling in just about every form of digital marketing along the way. Outside of work, you can find her exploring the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest, spending time with her rescue dog, Chuy, or taking photos of her brunch.

You May Like: