Bringing the Human Dimension to Virtual Experience

Bringing the Human Dimension to Virtual Experience

Christina Heller (Metastage, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2433-6.ch009
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Immersive media can be achieved through many types of production techniques, each designed to achieve a specific purpose. This chapter describes Metastage, a volumetric capture studio aligned with Microsoft, that is being used by a wide range of creators to produce their groundbreaking immersive works. The common element in these works is the desire to bring realistic human representation to the productions. In addition to interviews with select practitioners, this chapter also describes techniques and best practices for high end volumetric capture.
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Breaking Free From The Frame

There are many of us (such as those authors featured in this book) who believe the next digital media platform will be immersive, free from the constraints of the flat frame. Say goodbye to hunching over a laptop or straining to read a smartphone, and hello to spatial computing and immersive technology, where we stand up tall, move freely in our spaces, and summon digital assets that more accurately reflect the world around us—a vivid user experience, full of depth and physical presence. As someone who has spearheaded two companies in XR (and at risk of sounding like a ‘Silicon Valley’ parody), the author’s hope is that immersive technology will bring us closer—physically and psychically—than ever before. The Internet brought the world into our living rooms, but then it locked us behind screens while we marveled at our new tools and toys. Perhaps this era of “tech neck” and digital isolation is just our generation’s burden to bear while we usher in the full potential of immersive cyberspace.1

The Internet, in tandem with TV, provided such an amazing shift in our perceptions of, and interactions with, the world that screen time in the 21st Century dominates our existence. And who could blame us for succumbing? In the past, one’s social interactions were limited by physically close neighbors and one’s immediate social networks. Now we are literally connected to the entire world.

We’ve made willing (and sometimes begrudging) tradeoffs for the connected screen. We love our smartphones, tablets, and laptops. We love our Spotify and Netflix and GPS and Sonos and Amazon and Lyft and Airbnb and Postmates and… the list goes on and on.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we’ve lost something in the process, something important. We now must go out of our way to seek what used to be the norm: things like face-to-face human interactions, the thrill of exploring real environments, and the subsequent surprises that these interactions can bring. In a world of flat screens with primarily text and image-based communication, we’ve lost a large measure of fundamental human stuff. How do we reconcile the human, physical world with the new forms of connectedness that the Internet and our screens provide?

This is where AR and VR come into play. They are the positive disrupters to today’s flat screen mode of interacting. Social VR allows multiple participants to inhabit the same virtual environment simultaneously. WebXR (the evolving immersively configured web-based browser) promises to transform the way we browse, from flat to fully dimensional. And volumetric video, which this chapter explores, will provide the means to bring real people and real performances into those worlds, changing our relationships to our media in evolutionary and exciting ways. There is no going back.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Visual Effects (VFX): This term includes any special effects that are added to filmed scenes after primary shooting, in the post-production phase.

Integrity Test: This is when an observer determines that the capture data looks correct from all viewpoints.

Globbing: An internal term used at Metastage to indicate when two objects lose their integrity and their geometry is no longer perceived as separate.

Solve: When the system correctly calculates the geometry mesh so that it looks like the object that was captured.

Keyframing: An animation term that refers to a frame that indicates the start and end of an action.

Codec: Compression and decompression programs that make data smaller so it can transfer more efficiently and quickly.

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