Film production in Sask. gets a boost with LED Volume Wall

It was an exciting day for the film and TV industry in Saskatchewan Monday as the LED Volume Wall was finally officially unveiled.

Premier Scott Moe, right, and Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross, left, joined independent producer Anand Ramayya of Karma Film, centre, to cut the ribbon on the LED Volume Wall–.John Cairns

The LED Volume Wall, located at the John Hopkins Regina Soundstage in Regina, will feature cutting edge technology will be utilized to provide backgrounds during the filming of motion picture and TV productions. 

This one is among the largest virtual walls in North America and the thinking is this will put Regina on the map for film and television production for years to come.

Dignitaries and government officials were on hand including Premier Scott Moe and Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross. They joined independent producer Anand Ramayya of Karma Film to cut the ribbon to open the facility.

Karma Film, based in Saskatchewan, has partnered with Volume Global on the facility.

“What you see behind you is the largest volume LED wall in the country and the second largest in the world according to our research,” Karma Film Founder Anand Ramayya said. “Because it’s so new, I t’s also the most technically advanced… We’ve had a real crack team of experts come in and build this, so what you’re seeing behind you is leading edge technology, it’s the large volume wall in the country.”

He said Disney productions such as The Mandalorian and the Book of Boba Fett have used comparable volumes to this one. “It’s exciting for the province to have this here because it puts us on a level playing field and gives us a lot of advantages as well to become a digital hub and centre for this kind of production – for the larger projects in the higher level production.”

What LED Volume Walls are, according to the province’s news release, is a system of linked LED panels used to display video footage. Traditional techniques have included the use of green screens to impose backgrounds, but the LED wall is seen as revolutionary for the industry as they combine “digital cinematography, LED volumes, game engines, and processing platforms to create limitless virtual environments.”

The wall itself is in an almost circular shape, and the backgrounds it can create can replicate anywhere in the world or possibly even outside this world, both real and imaginary. There is also a screen on the ceiling which can feature the sky or cloud cover.

The LED Volume Wall is entirely a private investment of $12 million from Karma Film and Volume Global, who will be making the wall available to rent to other production companies interested in filming in Saskatchewan. 

The Saskatchewan government’s contribution is the Soundstage facility, which is being leased for the volume wall, as well as the Creative Saskatchewan Feature Film and Television Production Grant which has been crucial in providing funding to attract several major productions in the province since its expansion in April 2022. The grant provides $12 million annually to productions in Saskatchewan.

“That is only possible due to the strength we have in the broader Saskatchewan economy,” Moe said of the grant. “This adds to the Saskatchewan economy, but it is through our natural resource-based economy that we are able to make the investment alongside industry, and have industry really enhance what that investment means to Saskatchewan people.”

“We’ve been very supportive of Creative Saskatchewan, and Creative Saskatchewan has worked a lease agreement with the company that has built the wall, so the wall is not owned by the province. It is owned by a private company. So this is a really good opportunity for the government and entrepreneurs to work together to create an environment where absolutely incredible films can be shot right here in the Johns Hopkins soundstage,” Minister Ross said.

“You can see this is groundbreaking for our province, for our country really, but it’s putting Saskatchewan on the map. When you look at the film industry, it’s big. You know, they say ‘New York is big, Biggar is bigger’ — this is bigger.”

When dignitaries were able to walk in and see the wall, they also saw the logos for a variety of motion picture productions and TV series looking to set up in the province.

Among the productions planned to use the volume wall in 2024 will be the feature film Hostile Takeover starring Michael Jai White and Saskatchewan’s Aimee Stolte.

The second project will be the Indigenous-based feature film Van Life, a horror road movie. After that, production will finally begin on the TV series King of Killers, a project announced back in 2022 and is which is being fired back up now that the Hollywood strikes are over. It was at that time of the announcement for King of Killers that the plans to build the LED Volume Wall were revealed.

Even more major productions will be utilizing the LED Volume Wall after that, with the wall fully booked into 2025 with projects.

It’s a far cry from a decade ago when major film and TV production dried up after the province had axed the film and TV tax credit. Now, with the combination of both an expanded Creative Saskatchewan grant and the LED Volume Wall, production companies are lining up to produce their projects in Saskatchewan.

“When you walk in there and see the motion picture productions that are coming to shoot here or are very interested in coming to shoot here, you know, those are not one or $2 million productions, those are $100 million productions,” said Moe. “I think at the end of the day, what it means to Regina, what it means to Saskatchewan is we have the latest technology that you find in the space. It’s attracting some of the largest motion pictures that are looking for a place to shoot. And so it’s going to provide us with an opportunity to build the industry right here in Regina, but more broadly across Saskatchewan as well and provide yet additional opportunities for Saskatchewan — not just youth, but in particular youth.”

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