Burbank Entertainment’s Early Bet on Virtual Video Production
Minneapolis-raised record producer and director Don Powell made the transition to theater and television production and relocated from Los Angeles to the Twin Cities. He bought a studio space in Eden Prairie in 2019, planning to use it to film a kids show. On the day of the first casting call, the country went into lockdown. Powell had to rethink his model.
He began talking with former colleague Ryan Lance about how they could use his space. After months of research, Lance suggested they partner on virtual production; an early adopter, Lance had to piece together a path using online message boards. Burbank Entertainment was born. The company specializes in music videos, commercials, television, corporate productions, and live broadcast events.
“It’s kind of been the Wild West because there is no standard way of doing this yet,” Lance says. “I’m trying to stay fresh with it as it grows, because it’s only expanding from here.”
Pairing software used in video games and virtual reality with a new form of green screen, Burbank can place people in any realistic three-dimensional setting without leaving the studio. Employed in Disney’s Mandalorian and HBO Max’s His Dark Materials, virtual production emerged in television in 2019.
The sell to clients is that it is both more efficient and cost-effective than traditional video creation, which perhaps mitigates the lost glamour of location shoots, crews, and craft service tables.
Coming out of the pandemic, many businesses were strapped with limited budgets and Covid rules, restricting their ability to produce material. Burbank was able to adapt, working with companies including California-based Benefit Cosmetics and Second Harvest Heartland.
“I think it’s the only way to go,” says Paulette Legred, founder/CEO of Bricelyn, Minnesota-based Lis’n Farm to Fashion.
Legred worked with Burbank to create promotional material for her hair care company. She could see the video in real time during filming, instead of waiting weeks for a final product that may not have channeled her vision. “All of a sudden they could take a salon and put me in it.”
Powell is bullish on the technology and the good fortune the pandemic dropped in his lap: “This is rethinking the whole way filmmaking is done.”