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Why We Went All-In On Chicago: The Next High-Tech Film Town
SHOWRUNNER was born in 2021 in a tiny studio the back of an office building in downtown Manhattan. There, we co-founders experimented with “smart home” remote controls and automation for our lights, cameras, rear (and side) projection, face-tracking robots, computer vision, digital twins in Unreal Engine, and footage management.
By 2022, it was clear that we needed a new space, so we set out to find the ideal location for a high-tech, virtual production R&D studio. And though New York was our home, frankly the studio space there is expensive and film incentives aren’t what they used to be (if you’re reading this NY Film Office, we’d love to talk about some ideas we have for you!). So we started looking at other markets.
After making a giant spreadsheet comparing film incentives, real estate prices, crew and equipment availability, and film scene momentum, we narrowed down a short list of states and called up the film offices to hear the case for production in each of our top markets.
Long story short, Chicago won.
Chicago’s combination of all of the above (including an incredible new upgrade to its film incentive program) makes it the best overall place to film in North America, hands down. And the due diligence we did with local production companies and studios confirmed that the State of Illinois is helpful, responsive, and fast at giving support (and tax credits) to TV and film projects.
The only downside to filming in Chicago is the winter… which virtual production solves.
Speaking of which, Resolution Studios (where we made our first home in Chicago), has been slinging LED tiles for longer than some of today’s filmmakers have been alive. Low key, there’s more in-camera VFX / virtual production expertise at Resolution than anywhere we’ve visited (and there are some incredible experts out there in LA, London, Vancouver, etc.).
And of course, there’s Smash Virtual with its wraparound LED volume, Chicago Studio City which has been known to build a volume or two with the help of Orbital Virtual Studios, and the upcoming The Fields Studios which we are HYPED about.
If you’re looking to do virtual production in general, we’d humbly suggest not leaving home without SHOWRUNNER’s technology platform. And if you’re doing virtual production in Chicago, we especially endorse Miller Creative and Prysm Studios for your virtual art department, Noisefloor for your production and post audio (especially if you want to get clean sound out of an echoey volume), 2nd Decade and 8th Dimension for virtual production cinematography and supervision, Camera Ambassador for rentals, Big Works for production design, and, well, we could go on but if you want more recommendations or need help putting together a project, we suggest contacting Snow Productions.
Ok that’s enough shout-outs for now. We got stuff to film.