Taking virtual production in a whole new direction

WRITTEN BY

erik.hoeboer@netgear.com

INTRODUCTION

 

Company name:
Magicbox

Industry:
Media & Production

Company website:
magicbox.ninja

Location:
San Francisco, CA, United States

Virtual production has taken the world by storm in the past few years, providing greater flexibility,
reduced costs, and room for more innovation in video projects. California-based Magicbox takes this
groundbreaking approach a stage further with their Mobile Virtual Production Superstudio, a truck
that transforms into a fully functioning LED studio in about 45 minutes. Whether live or recorded and
irrespective of location, NETGEAR AV managed switches play a pivotal role in ensuring Magicbox’s
smooth operation so their clients can focus on producing great motion picture content.

 

 

BACKGROUND

Brian Nowac, Founder and CEO of Magicbox, explains, “Like many people in the industry, I first became aware of virtual production watching the behind-the-scenes footage of Star Wars The Mandalorian. With my 20-year background in production, animation, hardware, and software development, the virtual production process immediately made sense to me. I could see how it would become the future of production.”

Brian initially considered building a giant LED volume in San Francisco, but quickly realized the power requirements and massive expense were prohibitive. He decided to tackle the challenge from another direction: “I was inspired by the innovations seen in smartphones and computers. The idea for Magicbox was to miniaturize the LED volume to the smallest size and lowest cost possible that could still perform at a high level. Then make it mobile.”

TRUCK-TO-STUDIO TRANSFORMATION

The result of Nowac’s inspiration is the Magicbox Mobile Virtual Production Superstudio, an LED studio packed with all the cutting-edge virtual production technology needed to unleash the creative possibilities for movies, TV shows, commercials, videos, and experiential events. It takes about 45-minutes after arriving to almost any location for the Magicbox to be transformed from a semi-trailer into a fully operational LED studio ready for virtual productions.

Everything needed for virtual production is included inside the Magicbox. It is complete with the same game engine, video, control software and hardware that have been adopted by virtual production studios worldwide. It even has special features like a huge, motorized turntable floor and an articulating LED ceiling that can be lowered and tilted to create perfect reflections off glass and metallic surfaces on set.

Magicbox may be powered by the location’s own power supply or, if at a remote site, via generators. Once production has finished, Magicbox packs away neatly, and is off to the next project.

CHALLENGE

The mobility of Magicbox does come with a special set of requirements to make it all possible. “We need to have super reliable, stable, and sturdy technical components that are sophisticated as well as durable enough to get the job done consistently everywhere we go. There also needs to be a level of flexibility that enables us to be mobile without limiting our ability to accommodate different clients’ projects.”

These requirements must also extend to the network switches connecting all the studio’s elements.” Additional demands for this project included network equipment that could fit into a small space and withstand the rigors and vibrations of being on the road.

SOLUTION

 

Fortunately, Jay Spriggs, Managing Partner of Astra Productions — which supported Magicbox on the technical aspects of the project – had a recommendation: NETGEAR AV managed switches, part of the AV Line. Says Jay, “We love using the AV Line products because of their ease of configuration, stability, and price point. We use NETGEAR AV switches regularly for installations and our rental fleet. Features we value include flexible mounting options, low noise, and the sleek look, which blends in well with all the other technically impressive equipment in the Magicbox.”

Brian adds, “When I saw the specs of the NETGEAR AV M4250 switches, I could see it had all the features we needed, and I knew the brand, so I was able to approve that choice quickly. It was a no-brainer. The NETGEAR AV switches give us AV over IP stability: a best-in-class solution that sits alongside other best-in-class products and brands, all coming together to create something extremely unique.”

The Magicbox contains 18 NETGEAR AV M4250-12M2XF (MSM4214X) network switches. “We have over 100 home run cables, for instance, carrying video over IP signals from the processors to the LED panels,” says Brian.

RESULTS

The Magicbox Superstudio was launched at NAB 2023, one of
the leading broadcast industry events in the world, which takes place each April in Las Vegas. Since then, more than 10,000 miles have been put on the Magicbox, and Brian reports that the switches have maintained their integrity throughout, without any issues or need to contact NETGEAR support. This level of robustness is vital because no two days are the same for the Magicbox and its busy schedule.

“We pop up in parking lots, warehouses, street intersections, parks, and plazas; you name it: we can go from the beach to the forest, from the desert to the street in front of your house.” Workflows ranges widely, including feature films, TV shows, commercials, marketing projects, plus broadcasting at live events.

To date, the Magicbox has been used by some of the biggest production organizations and brands on the planet. Recent examples include experiential marketing for Netflix’s Rebel Moon, as well as commercials for Dodge, and Subaru. Brian concludes, “Our clients love Magicbox because it gives them an innovative, affordable, flexible, and highly reliable solution.” While the NETGEAR AV switches are just one part of this impressive set-up, it is good to know they are earning their place within this groundbreaking approach to virtual production.

MORE INFO

For more information about the NETGEAR AV switches