Beeble AI raises $4.75M to launch virtual production platform for indie filmmakers

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Visual effects (VFX) have emerged as an essential element in filmmaking and have transformed storytelling and creativity in the film industry through its diverse digital techniques. However, the high cost of VFX equipment often leaves independent filmmakers and content creators working with modest budgets struggling to compete with larger productions. A new company, Beeble AI, is turning to AI to solve this problem.

The South Korea-based VFX startup has developed a virtual lighting solution for filmmakers and visual effects artists to address the high costs of creating top-shelf, Hollywood-level visual effects and level the playing field in the film industry, empowering independent filmmakers and content creators to compete with larger productions.

Beeble AI CEO and co-founder Hoon Kim told TechCrunch that the startup has now secured $4.75 million in seed funding led by Basis Set Ventures with participation from Fika Ventures, at a valuation of $25 million.

Beeble AI was founded in 2022 by five co-founding members who previously worked in the AI ​​research and machine learning team of South Korean game publisher Krafton. The co-founders, who were involved in AI-powered content creation, realized that no AI startup focused on “lighting,” which they considered a crucial element in filmmaking and photography, which led to the birth of Beeble AI.

Beeble’s main product is Switchlight Studio, a desktop app that offers relighting and composition in a virtual environment. (Switchlight Studio will be rebranded as Virtual Studio in the third quarter of this year, Kim noted.)

“While our initial focus was on virtual lighting, we are now moving toward developing comprehensive virtual (production) studios,” Kim said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We envision a future where small teams of fewer than 10 artists can create content that can compete with major Hollywood studios.”

Virtual production involves a combination of virtual and physical settings in the making of films. You may have seen a green screen, a backdrop used in filming to allow editors to incorporate VFX during post-production. Kim explained that a large LED screen has replaced the green screen in high-end virtual productions, but an LED wall is still expensive for indie filmmakers.

Kim added, “Powered by the Unreal Engine and giant LED walls, virtual production creates the illusion of on-location shooting without the actual travel. However, this technology is only accessible to filmmakers with million-dollar budgets due to its high cost and complexity.”

The company’s CEO told TechCrunch that unlike traditional virtual production companies that use LED walls to bring virtual environments into the real world, Beeble’s virtual production platform will virtualize real actors into a virtual world. He added that with just a phone camera, users can access infinite locations, lighting, and camera options in a virtual environment.

Kim said Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” is an example of a film shot using virtual production for filming and real-time effects. Virtual production has quickly become one of the fastest-growing areas of visual effects and filming.

Kim said potential users of its virtual production platform could be not only B2C users (content creators and filmmakers), but also B2B companies such as ReelShort, a short-format video streaming app specializing in serialized dramas.

Generative AI companies like OpenAI’s Sora and Runway help create videos from text, which could completely disrupt the animation and movie industry. However, Kim said that generative AI models including Sora and Runway often produce random content and alter the original image or video even for simple tasks; Beeble is designed with AI capability for predictability and ease of manipulation. Kim further said, “To tell a compelling story, you must have complete control over every little detail of the project, including the environment, characters, camera, and lighting.”

The text-based prompt interface is not the way to do this, and it doesn’t allow for detailed iteration to perfect your shots. Beeble’s goal is to enable fully controllable video creation with AI.

The startup says the key to achieving significant cost reductions is their fundamental AI model, which enables you to adjust lighting, environment, and camera movement in the post-production stage.

According to a report published by the co-founding members at CVPR 2024, the founding AI model “automatically digitizes 2D footage of an actor’s performance into an anatomically accurate 3D representation. The reconstructed actor in 3D space has accurate geometry and textures, giving artists complete freedom to change lighting, environments, and camera angles.” Beeble AI claims that this capability significantly reduces budget constraints and allows creators to focus primarily on storytelling. Users can create cinematic shots using just an iPhone in their living room.

Beeble AI says it started generating revenue last October. About 3 million users have downloaded its Switchlight mobile app, which is an AI photo editor app. The startup also said that Caption AI is integrating its SDK to provide advanced relighting features within its app.

With the fresh capital, it seeks to expand its business to a virtual production studio platform. It intends to use the fresh capital to advance its baseline AI model, further product development, and hire staff, which now consists of seven employees.

Previous investors include Mashup Ventures and Kakao Ventures.

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