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The new era of VR production

While VR is yet to find true traction in the wider consumer market, the tools for making immersive content find themselves at a bit of a crossroads.

“We are now witnessing a growth in diversified content and approaches,” says Davide Bianca, Head of VR / AR at Unit 9.

Bianca says the VR landscape used to be fairly polarised, with pre-rendered 360 CG video at one end and conventionally captured video at the other.

The leading edge content now is a blend in some proportion of the two and that immersive content is “now evolving into a much more diverse and stratified ecosystem.”

The cutting edge of VR production

From cameras through to the edit, IBC365 rounds up the very latest production techniques for immersive content.

While VR is yet to find true traction in the wider consumer market, the tools for making immersive content find themselves at a bit of a crossroads.

Source: Unit 9

“We are now witnessing a growth in diversified content and approaches,” says Davide Bianca, Head of VR / AR at Unit 9.

Bianca says the VR landscape used to be fairly polarised, with pre-rendered 360 CG video at one end and conventionally captured video at the other.

The leading edge content now is a blend in some proportion of the two and that immersive content is “now evolving into a much more diverse and stratified ecosystem.”

The consequence is that the tools are evolving too. While Nokia might have shuttered its high-end OZO camera operation last year (development of the software at least has been picked up by a new start-up, Imeve, formed by key members of the OZO team) there are any number of high-end options available.

OZOs, of course, are very much still in use, as is the Lytro Immerge following Google’s acquisition of the company earlier this year. Bianca also adds the GoPro Odyssey, MooVR and NextVR to the list of high-end options, with the qualification that you have to be lucky to get your hands on the latter in particular. Indeed there are a growing number of decent options for shooting immersive at all levels, from the prosumer to the high end

“The filming technology has come along way,” says Zahra Rasool, the Editorial Lead for Al Jazeera’s immersive media studio Contrast.

Camera technology is only a part of the modern immersive landscape, though, with CG content provided by realtime games engines an important part of the mix.

The Unreal Engine dominated the industry for an extended period, but recent years have seen Unity 3D gain in popularity, partly because of its powerful memory handling features. And where once projects were very much siloed and either live action or CG, that is changing.

“We are at a crossroads at the moment,” says Sky VR Studios Technical Director Richard Mills, “To be able to have full interactivity and then full immersion you have to have the ability to be able to influence and interact with your surroundings which is very difficult with 360 video.

”CGI plays very well in Unity but it doesn’t necessarily have the same realism. But, if you can combine photorealistic environments, an object and sometimes a character with an enhanced CGI background, then you get the best of both worlds; you have the interactivity and you have the realism as well.”

There are still plenty of challenges to be solved, however. Baernhoft, for instance, would like to see progress made on data transfer rates and stitching, with AI routines promising clean, ready-stitched output from the cameras also showing potential.

“Having tools to edit VR in VR is also a next step to look forward to which will greatly improve workflow,” he adds. “Unity has been making great progress on this in the background and we are waiting for them to release their new products for this.”

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