Being Head Of On Set Services for DNEG Virtual Production

With Tim Doubleday

“I like to make everyone feel motivated and rewarded within the team. While it’s important to know the technical side of the job, I really think communication and social skills are important, especially when you’re on a high-pressure film set.”


Tim Doubleday is Head of On Set Services for DNEG Virtual Production. He’s based in our London studio, but his role takes him around the world, working on-set to deliver our Virtual Production projects and supervise our VP teams. Keep on reading to find out how Tim’s love of computers and video games took him into the world of Virtual Production, why communication is so key for his role, and what it was like being on-set for the new Star Wars films.

Hi Tim! What brought you into the world of Virtual Production?

My background is in 3D animation and visualisation. I did a foundation year studying Art and part of that course focussed on 3D animation and using video, which I really enjoyed. I discovered I wasn’t that great with pen and paper but felt confident I could do basic programming and the more technical side of things as computers had always been a hobby for me. I studied Animation at Bournemouth University back when 3D graphics and animation were only just starting to become a big thing in the industry. That’s when I decided I’d prefer a career that let me use the technology myself rather than in programming. I’ve always been a big video game fan and was really interested in how games are created, so that felt like a good place to focus my attention.

I decided I’d like to specialise in motion capture as that would give me the opportunity to use both my creative and technical skills. After working in the gaming industry for a few years I got the opportunity to work with Andy Serkis at The Imaginarium on the new Star Wars films. I got to work closely with him on Episodes 7 and 8, and also on his adaptation of Jungle Book for Netflix. That experience really sparked my love for working in the film industry! From there, Virtual Production seemed like the perfect next step in my career as it encompassed a lot of my previous experience in mocap, camera tracking and performance capture. I spent five years as the VFX Product Manager at Vicon and learnt the VP toolset. I worked on designing the tools that enable people to use body tracking and camera tracking software, some of which I use now in my current role! From there, I moved into a Virtual Production Supervisor role, and now here I am at DNEG Virtual Production.

Any career highlight(s) so far?

Getting to work with Andy Serkis at Imaginarium was definitely a highlight for me. Being on set for the Star Wars films was incredible. There was a point during filming when they needed some people as stand-ins for an early pre-production test shot so I got to sit in and pretend to be Hans Solo while the actors worked around me! That was a real pinch-me moment.

What is your day-to-day like as Head of On Set Services?

My role is really about making sure we’re shoot-ready. There tends to be a week or two of on-set preparation leading up to shoot day – making sure the LED wall is calibrated and working, the film camera is tracking correctly, and the backend system has sync and timecode. A big part of this stage for me is also making sure the team all know what they’re doing, everyone has a clear role, and feels they can contribute on the day. It’s so important that every shoot is a team effort and that each person in my team feels rewarded for their work afterwards. On the day of the shoot, my role is to work with the client to ensure they’re happy, to take their feedback and relay it to the team, and to ensure all the data is cleaned up and ready to be delivered to them post-shoot. I supervise the whole end-to-end process and make sure that the team are all clear on their role within it, so it’s very important for me to have a broad knowledge of all the different aspects of what goes into making a shoot successful. I need to be able to help and guide the team if there are any issues and facilitate a clear chain of communication. No two days are the same in my role!

What do you like the most about your job?

I love being on set! I get to communicate with so many different people in different roles every day and I find that so rewarding. I like that I get to be in such a mixed-discipline environment. Not only do I get to work alongside the fantastic people in our VP teams, but I also get to meet production designers, set builders and the lighting team that create all the physical aspects of a shoot. I get to see these elements come to life in front of me and I find that incredible to watch. I meet so many different people with different backgrounds and amazing creative skills, coming from the technical side I find it fascinating.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in Virtual Production?

From a technical perspective, my advice is definitely to learn Unreal Engine. It’s free and relatively easy to learn using the resources available online. In terms of being on-set, I think communication is really key. An aspect of many on-set roles is to be client-facing, so it’s really important to be a confident communicator. You’ll also need to be able to communicate what you’re doing with the team in a clear and concise way. You need to be able to communicate with people at all levels in a professional yet personable way.

Time for some, rapid-fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?

Being a video game nerd I love things like Mario and Zelda, so I always have a load of toys and figurines on my desk! That is until my two-year-old comes into my office and the toys go everywhere!

Tim’s Mario and Zelda figurine collection.

What’s your ‘special power’ at work?

Energising people and giving them the confidence to achieve something incredible! I like to make everyone feel motivated and rewarded within the team. While it’s important to know the technical side of the job, I really think communication and social skills are important, especially when you’re on a high-pressure film set.

What are you most looking forward to every day?

Being with the team, seeing what we can do and how we can push the boundaries of the technology to create amazing experiences. I also spend a lot of my time on set and this takes me away from home and around the world for long periods of time. When I’m at home, the thing I most look forward to is spending time with my daughter at the end of the day and playing make-believe!

How did you feel on your first day at DNEG Virtual Production?

I was lucky that I got to be on set on my first day. It was quite relaxed as we’d been given lots of time to get things up and running. I was a bit nervous but mainly just incredibly excited.

What is your proudest moment to date?

I’ve actually just finished a shoot for which I was the sole VP Supervisor, and that was a huge moment for me. The shoot went really well and I feel incredibly proud to have been able to run it on my own.

Finish this sentence: DNEG Virtual Production is…

A place where I get to be creative, work with some of the most talented people in the industry, and push the boundaries of what people expect from Virtual Production.


DNEG Virtual Production, a partnership between DNEG and Dimension Studio, offers filmmakers and content creators an industry-leading, end-to-end virtual production service. To find out more about DNEG Virtual Production click here.

And if you want to join our Oscar-winning team, stay tuned for our next ‘FOCUS’ and click here to find out more about our open positions across our studios in North America, Europe, India and Australia.




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