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Disney’s Myth: A Frozen Tale is VR Film of the Year

Disney's Myth: A Frozen Tale is VR Film of the YearMyth: A Frozen Tale, the first VR short from Disney Animation to be inspired by one of the studio’s feature films won the VR Film of the Year award in AIXR’s 2020 VR Awards.

As Virtual Reality expands, different organizations create awards to celebrate the creative work produced each new year. The VR Awards from the Academy of International Extended Reality – AIXR – is such an event. It distributes a series of awards covering everything from hardware to games, education, or filming. AIXR’s mission is, in its own words, “to support individuals and companies in the immersive industry by endorsing, inspiring, and enabling innovators through removing barriers to entry and connecting a diverse collection of trades together.”

The 2020 edition of the VR Awards, which moved online due to the pandemic, has, again, a VR Film of the Year category which recognizes projects that are creating immersive, spatial and original VR media. The submission criteria points to key aspects of each work presented: immersion, innovative use of cinematography and viewing, use of spatial sound, motion comfort, originality and enjoyment and narrative.

All nominations must substantially feature virtual reality within their media and work to create a comfortable and enjoyable experience for the viewer.  The judges also pay attention to the use of positioning and movement within the media. The organizers also note that the work presented can include short films, 360 pieces, volumetric and narrative work within VR.

This year’s edition had a total of five finalists:

  • Felix & Paul Studios – Alegría – A Spark of Light
  • Fabio Rychter & Amir Admoni – Gravity VR
  • Samantha Quick – Lutaw
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios – Myth: A Frozen Tale
  • Enrique Agudo – The Pantheon of Queer Mythology

Disney's Myth: A Frozen Tale is VR Film of the YearThe VR Film of the Year Awards

Myth: A Frozen Tale, from Walt Disney Animation Studio won the 2020 VR Film of the Year, joining a list of films awarded in recent years. Wolves in the Walls, from Fable Studio was the winner in 2019, CARNE y ARENA by ILMxLAB received the award in 2018 and Allumette by Penrose Studios – a fabulous VR experience which is freely available – received the VR Media/Film of the Year in the first edition of the VR Awards, in 2017.

Working to create an immersive, spatial and original VR media is very new territory for most designers and cinematographers, so it is interesting to see that Walt Disney Animation Studios’ participation and the fact that it was awarded this year’s  VR Film of the Year award. The “bridge” Myth: A Frozen Tale creates between the film Frozen 2, which world premiere in Hollywood in November 2019, and a magic adventure of discovery that can be experienced from the comfort of home will contribute to make Virtual Reality more popular.

Disney's Myth: A Frozen Tale is VR Film of the YearMyth: A Frozen Tale: made for Oculus Rift S

Directed by Jeff Gipson the short – it is 8 minutes long – Myth: A Frozen Tale is a bedtime fairytale that completely immerses audiences in the sights and sounds of Frozen 2. What starts as an ordinary evening inside an Arendellian home transforms into an adventure, where elemental spirits of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth reveal themselves through a whirlwind of 2D hand drawn effects, 3D animation, and original music.

Director Jeff Gipson is not new to VR. In fact, he directed Cycles, which was Disney Animation’s first VR short film. The title was presented at various film festivals and the positive reception and awards received paved the way for Disney to continue exploring storytelling in the medium. Myth: A Frozen Tale was first shown at the world premiere of Frozen 2, at Sundance Film Festival, and when it was first revealed, it was designed with the Oculus Rift S in mind, but in the end it was only made available in Facebook’s Quest.

While it is good to see more cinematic experiences come to VR and create bridges between other media and the interactive options offered by Virtual Reality, it’s unfortunate that companies like Disney limit their audience by selecting a single VR headset, as is the case here. As it is, Myth: A Frozen Tale is a title that only Quest, and Quest 2 users will be able to watch.

Disney's Myth: A Frozen Tale is VR Film of the YearMyth: A Frozen Tale ONLY on Quest!

Furthermore, as Facebook now makes mandatory the creation of a Facebook account to use its VR headset Quest 2, and also wants to force owners of the original Quest to create an account to continue using the headset, watching Myth: A Frozen Tale means you’ve to share your data with Facebook. I wonder why companies do not look for ways to share their content in more inclusive platforms, which work with different VR headsets, like Steam or Viveport.

It is not just the fact that Myth: A Frozen Tale is limited to a restrictive platform in terms of audience, it is also what it meant for creators. Jeff Gipson said, when asked about the effects of moving from the Oculus Rift S to the Facebook Quest, that it was a challenge to create the Quest version, as assets, animation, effects, and lighting all had to be optimized… which really mean had to be reduced, to cope with the limitations of the untethered VR headset. The reason is simple: Facebook wants to promote the Quest, as it has just killed the most popular PCVR headset, the Oculus Rift S.

Epic MegaGrants surpasses $60M in support for creators

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creatorsGames, tools and entertainment titles share the more than $60M in financial support distributed by Epic MegaGrants to accelerate the work of nearly 1,000 talented teams and individuals across the planet.

First launched in 2019, Epic MegaGrants is a $100 million program that continues Epic Games’ long-standing commitment to the success of all creators, and is designed to service and assist game developers, enterprise professionals, media and entertainment creators, students, educators, and tool developers doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community.

Funding for all kinds of creative and technological work is the main goal of the MegaGrants project, and Epic Games says “We love supporting UE4 game developers of all sizes with funds to make their projects a success. You can also apply for a grant to fund transitioning your existing or in-development game to UE4” to immediately add that “Individuals or organizations working on a film, broadcast, live event, or location-based entertainment project are eligible and encouraged to apply for funding.” So, maybe you want to try your chance…

Epic games announced today that its MegaGrants program has now surpassed $60M in financial support and revealed some new recipients, a list that includes a variety of projects, from an animated cyberpunk adventures to VR learning environments, and even a mystery noir game starring a raccoon detective, among the nearly 1,000 talented teams and individuals worldwide.

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creatorsA previs tool named Monomyth

Although media and entertainment titles might be the type of projects ProVideo Coalition readers want to know about, the truth is that the frontiers between different areas is almost non-existent these days, so we decided to publish here the whole list made available by Epic Games, with notes about each different project benefiting from the Epic MegaGrants. The videos chosen to illustrate some of them and the links that allow those interested to explore more about each of the titles will make for some interesting reading during the weekend.

If you browse through the examples, you’ll discover how much games have in common with films, when it comes to storytelling. But it’s not just games, in fact, and PVC readers might be particularly interested in recipients such as the animated YouTube series Meta Runner, which is created entirely in Unreal Engine by Glitch Productions; and the previs tool Monomyth, from Narrative Dynamics, which automates the path from script to screen.

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creators

Independent Games

Eggnut – Backbone

Backbone is a noir role-playing detective adventure. Step into the gumshoes of raccoon private eye Howard Lotor, a second-class citizen of dystopian Vancouver, BC inhabited by animals. Interrogate a diverse cast of characters, collect evidence, and choose which leads to follow as you uncover mystery.

METRONOMIK SDN. BHD. – No Straight Roads

Start a rock band and end the EDM empire in No Straight Roads, a rockin’ action-adventure from the minds of Wan Hazmer (Final Fantasy XV) and Daim Dziauddin (Street Fighter V). Explore Vinyl City and fight musical megastars on your journey to defeat an oppressive EDM empire in an action-packed adventure that mashes together rhythm-infused third-person combat with a jammin’ soundtrack!

Keelworks LTD – Cygni

A twin-stick vertical scrolling shooter hybrid with a cinematic flare, Cygni is an unrelenting onslaught of eye-popping visuals, ear-bursting soundscapes, and mind-melting action. Outmanned, outgunned, and entirely out on your own, plunge into a sky full of danger in a last-ditch battle for survival in this modern take on the shoot ‘em up genre.

kaleidoscube GmbH – A Juggler’s Tale

Lead Abby the string puppet through a bruised but beautiful world in this poetic 3D adventure. Solve riddles, evade traps, and shake off pursuers on your way to find freedom. Can Abby take control of her own fate and make a difference with all the strings attached?

Alexander Goodwin – Selfloss

Selfloss is a stylized story-driven adventure set in the world of ancient Russian and Icelandic mythology. From the harsh wilderness to vibrant seas, explore the fantastical world and use the light of your magical staff to help or defeat mythical creatures from classic fairy tales and heal soul-deep wounds of an old Volkhv hero.

ACE Team – The Eternal Cylinder

Control a herd of adorable creatures called Trebhums and explore a strange alien world filled with exotic lifeforms, surreal environments, and the constant threat of the Cylinder, a gargantuan rolling structure of ancient origin which crushes everything in its path. In this unique alien ecosystem, real-time world destruction, animal AI, and organic exploration and puzzle design all combine to deliver an unforgettable adventure.

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creatorsMedia & Entertainment

Glitch Productions – Meta Runner Season 2

Meta Runner transports viewers to a cyberpunk future in which video games are everything and superstar esports competitors reign supreme. An animated series about games, made in a real-time engine, Glitch Productions are utilizing Unreal Engine’s suite of tools to capture the essence and feel of video games.

Shazzy Gustafson – Mitzy Makes It

Performed in Unreal Engine, Mitzy Makes It aims to show young girls that science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) can be fun, colorful, and creative.

Narrative Dynamics – Monomyth

Monomyth is a powerful previs tool that automates the path from script to screen. Write a scene and watch it come to life with automated camera positions, animations, dialogue, props, locations, and more. The software consists of a script editor, a language processor, and a display module, all built with Unreal Engine. Once a scene is generated, elements can easily be edited and scripts can be tweaked within the application for fast iteration.

Lucan Visuals (PTY) LTD – Isaura

Follow the story of a young Mozambican girl as she embarks on an adventure to reconnect humans with nature in the beautifully animated series, Isaura. Cape Town-based Lucan is collaborating with fellow African studio Leaping Rhino to integrate Unreal Engine into their studio workflow and also to build upon their existing pipeline for future projects.

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creators

Tools and Open Source

Reallusion – iClone Unreal Live Link

The Unreal Live Link plugin for iClone creates a system for characters, lights, cameras, and animation for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. Reallusion now provides a complete character creation and animation pipeline to Unreal Engine for indies and studios of every size to realize digital humans.

Sound Particles – Sound Particles integration

Sound Particles is an immersive audio software application capable of generating a vast array of complex sounds in a virtual 3D audio world. Widely-used in the world of media and entertainment, the team is now looking to expand their range and bring the full power of Sound Particles to Unreal Engine, unleashing a new world of sonic possibilities for game developers.

Epic MegaGrants distributes $60M in support for creatorsEnterprise

BeBop Sensors – Hands-On Immersive Full-Motion VR Trainer

BeBop Sensors are helping people communicate with technology in innovative ways with their smart fabric-sensing platforms and Forte Data Gloves. Using touch, gesture, and haptic feedback, the team is dedicated to changing the way that we interact with extended reality, opening the door for new and immersive VR training experiences.

Renderlounge – Industrial Automation: Real-time Factory Monitoring & Intervention

Renderlounge is developing an interactive factory monitoring and intervention solution to increase safety within the industrial automation sector. The Pakistan-based company has a pilot application to monitor real-time data coming from factory floor machines and interactive commands modules for manual switching of machines in the event of an emergency.

Proteus VR Inc. – Proteus VR

ProteusLabs offers a learning platform that uses virtual reality and artificial intelligence to simulate learning activities found in school and business training environments. Laboratories in chemistry, physics, science, technology, and other learning situations can be recreated in a virtual environment that is nearly identical to their real-world counterparts. Proteus VR’s first augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) projects were culturally oriented projects related to the arts and performing arts.

Education

Ryan Laley Games – Ryan Laley Games

College tutor and self-published game developer Ryan Laley is using his more than eight years of teaching experience to educate anyone interested in Unreal Engine on YouTube. His free weekly tutorials are designed to be both informative and easy to understand, providing a fantastic resource for people of all skill levels.

VRDays: three days of online conferences on VR and AR

VRDays: three days of online conferences on VR and ARMore than 30 online conferences, more than 150 international experts revealing the latest innovations make the VRDays the place for the global VR/AR community to meet again.

How do you connect with your community in times of crisis and isolation? How can we share knowledge, inspire each other and create new partnerships when we are not able to travel? Faced with these questions, the same that have been faced by organizers of many other events around the world, the team behind VRDays Europe decided to move the annual 3-day event online.

After all, Virtual Reality is all about new challenges and nothing better than mixing the potential of VR, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality – usually presented under the XR umbrella  – with the online characteristics of many events created after the pandemic forced the world to find new ways to connect.

The barriers created by the pandemic may seem like a hard nut to crack for many event organizers nowadays, but as the proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention”. So, for VRDays Europe, an event focusing on immersive technology in business, science, and art, the organizers will use platforms such as Vimeo, VirBELA, Zoom and Oculus TV. The large number of satellite events introduced in 2020 also contribute to assure that the global VR/AR community will come together again.

VRDays: three days of online conferences on VR and ARConference live streamed on Vimeo

Over 3 days, 30+ conference sessions will be held on different (online) platforms to connect the worldwide VR/AR community. 150+ international experts are set to talk about the latest innovations in the immersive tech industry and how they shape the world of tomorrow. Among the final contributors announced are Amy Seidenwurm (Oculus VR for Good), Blake Kammerdiener (SXSW), Francesco Giordana (Netflix), Jason Lovell (PwC, UK), A.I. Artist and Storyteller of the Future Karen Palmer, Kavya Pearlman (XR Safety Initiative), Sophie Kleber (Google), Sallyann Houghton (Epic Games), Timmy Ghiurau (Volvo Cars), Tim Massey (VICON), Toby Coffey (National Theatre London) and Veronica Yip (NVIDIA).

The annual Vision & Impact Conference, which normally takes place in the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam, will now be live streamed on Vimeo from this location. It is the place where XR experts virtually are brought together from all over the world to present practical cases that impact us today and set the vision for the future. During panel discussions and keynotes, topics of great importance to the community and wider industry will be tackled such as The Future of Work, VR in Education, Virtual Conferencing and much more.

Brand new in 2020 are the 30 Satellite Events that VRDays is co-hosting. Communities of VR/AR enthusiasts can take part in these small-scale corona-friendly events that are happening across the world and on digital platforms like Microsoft Mixed Reality and Somnium Space. According to the organizers, they offer workshops, talks, networking, and special VR experiences.

VRDays: three days of online conferences on VR and ARFacebook and the Church of VR

One key element of the event is the Church of VR, announced as “a free-to-access and unique experience where the audience can interact with award-winning creative projects, fully immersed in VR and, for the first time, available through Oculus TV. Visitors are able to experience Church of VR with any Oculus headset from home, or when attending one of the Satellite Events. The Cosmic Laughter of Cucci Binaca, The Principle Dancer, and Saving My Oasis are projects that are set to have their world premiere in Church of VR. On top of that, you’ll find the best of Church 360 concepts and other award-winning ideas.”

The concept of a church and a religious movement around VR may sound exciting, but may not be the best choice at the moment, due to the heated discussion about Facebook’s decision to make mandatory the use of a Facebook account by owners of new Oculus headsets, meaning the Oculus Quest 2. Those not happy with Facebook’s decision – which will cause the company problems in regions as Europe, where General Data Protection Regulation is taken seriously – will, no doubt, connect the name Church of VR to the new rules from Facebook…

There may be strategic reasons behind the decision to limit the access to the Church of VR to Oculus headsets, but in terms of widening the consumer interest for VR is a bad choice, even more so now that Oculus headsets are locked to a Facebook account. There are other VR headsets available from Valve, HTC, HP and others – and more are coming – so  I believe organizers of this type of events have to rethink their strategy and opens the experience to the whole market, if they want it to grow. After all, many of the “experiences” available are compatible with different headsets, so it makes no sense to limit the number of users who can view them.

VRDays: three days of online conferences on VR and ARAn event you can visit from home

The online event will also offer an experience like a modern day Second Life: the Laval Virtual World. Instead of a physical trade show in the Kromhouthal, visitors to VRDays can now attend the virtual version of it with a personalised avatar from wherever they are. Meet and connect with each other and the hottest XR tech companies of this moment. The expo is held in the Laval Virtual World and powered by VirBELA.

The Laval Virtual World was born in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. While the whole world was confined, this virtual world has helped to pursue the missions of Laval Virtual: gather, inspire, valorize. In April 2020, conferences, the Awards ceremony and business meetings were held. Today, it’s a federating place for the international VR/AR community. This year at VRDays, you will visit the most innovative XR companies from your safe home or work environment.

“VirBELA is excited to partner with VRDays to provide an engaging and immersive virtual event experience, allowing guests to interact virtually and network as they would at an in-person event.” Ted Laatz, VP of Events, VirBELA.

With a print magazine, Satellite Events across the world and on immersive platforms, live streaming conferences, a funding market in Zoom, a virtual trade show and Oculus TV, VRDays is showcasing what an event of the future looks like. With the support of Cleanbox Technologies, City of Amsterdam, Creative Europe, Creative Industries Fund NL, HP, Laval Virtual, Oculus, Vicon and Vive X, VRDays Europe will continue to give the XR community the possibility to meet, connect and share knowledge, wherever they are in the world.

The VRDays Europe, the annual 3-day event focusing on immersive technology in business, science, and art, connects the worldwide VR/AR community from 4 till 6 November, exploring new ways to do online events. No wonder this year’s edition is named “New Horizons”. Follow the link to VRDays’ website to know more about the event and pick the conferences you want to follow.

How game engines and VR are changing filmmaking

How game engines and VR are changing filmmakingVirtual Reality offers a unique way to experience narratives, but it’s also a tool that can help filmmakers create classic “flat screen” films. Paired with a game engine, VR offers a tool for indies and big studios.

From Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to Star Trek’s Holodeck or the film The Matrix, Virtual Reality has been around us for a while, even if the term itself only appears in 1987, coined by Jaron Lanier. A founder of the field of VR, Lanier was also a pioneer, and together with Thomas G. Zimmerman founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR equipment for personal use.

We’ve not yet reached the stage that Lanier imagined for VR in the 1980s, with the DataGlove, EyePhone, and DataSuit – terms you can Google after, to know more – but these developments paved the way for early prototypes of systems like the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Lanier said, in an interview to the New Scientist, in 2013, that “the Oculus Rift folks remind me of the kids we were 30 years ago, and I am rooting for them to succeed. It would be awfully nice to see this latest wave of VR make a lot of people happy.”

Well, Lanier’s wishes are turning reality, and the numbers show that VR audiences are growing, and the medium is, as he wished, being used for more than entertainment. During the interview mentioned above, Lanier said that “as a practical technology, VR is already widely successful and adopted. My favourite applications are in medicine, particularly in surgical training and in augmenting surgery itself. For the last couple of decades every new vehicle, whether it rolls, floats or flies, has been designed in part in VR. Scientific visualisation apps are also extensively used in chemistry, neuroscience and other fields.”

How game engines and VR are changing filmmakingWalk in VR like you are on a real set

Furthermore, VR is being used in entertainment, but not just to create games or titles that audiences can explore, like some of the storytelling experiences ProVideo Coalition has mentioned in recent months. Films like The Lion King have set a milestone and revealed how VR has become a key part of Hollywood productions, while many filmmakers have adopted VR as a platform to share their narratives.

Rob Legato, who reteamed with director Jon Favreau to bring the characters of the Disney classic back to the screen, said this about the process: “the VR component we introduced after The Jungle Book allows you to walk in like you would on a real set, put the camera where you want, and the physicality of it helps you to psychologically root yourself. You start doing very natural camera work because you’re in an environment that you’re familiar with. You know where the light goes, you know where the camera goes, you know where the actors are – and all of a sudden on day one you’re off to the races.”

He then added that “when we’re in VR, which is different from what we did on The Jungle Book, the VR experience gives you the visceral feeling of being there, of being up high or at a faraway distance, all those various things, you feel it. So Jon, Caleb, James Chinlund, Andy Jones and I could all walk in together as a group of filmmakers, a group of collaborators, and see things for the first time, look at things from different angles.”

How game engines and VR are changing filmmakingFrom The Lion King to The Mandalorian

“Caleb might have a better idea to shoot something – he continues – to take advantage of a sunset that’s happening, and again it’s like music, where you’re bouncing off of each other. And when you’re done it’s a very successful location scout that otherwise you could never have done together in a CG world. But in the real world, or in our case a virtual world, we all can share in it and we all can respond to what we’re looking at – at the same time.”

The knowledge acquired through the experiences of The Jungle Book and The Lion King allowed MPC to refine constantly the tools used for Virtual Production and now, elaborates Favreau, “MPC has a suite of tools that are available to any filmmaker based on the innovations that we made on The Lion King.” Favreau continued to a game engine for a better workflow in film production and The Mandalorian is another example.

While on The Lion King and The Jungle Book Jon Favreau used the Unity game engine, for this new Disney title the team went with another solution, Epic’s Unreal Engine. One of the reasons is the Virtual Camera Plugin, which enables a user to drive a Cine Camera in Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) using an iPad Pro in a virtual production environment.

Game engines offer filmmakers the ability to replace classic previsualization methods with an immersive experience that cuts production time, but they also give independent creators and small teams options that until not long ago were only available to big studios. That explains why VR is becoming popular in film festivals around the world. Together or used on their own, these technologies open new options for creators.

How game engines and VR are changing filmmakingVR became a key part of film festivals

Virtual Reality, which at first was only associated with “experiences” and video games, appeared as a key component of film festivals, from Sundance  to Tribeca or SXSW, which showed everything from VR films, interactive or not, covering diverse areas, from documentary or animation to pure creative exercises. The second step of that experience was triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic that forced many events to move online. Although the change created some chaos, it has also revealed the potential to reach international audiences… using Virtual Reality.

In fact, throughout 2020, as many events moved online, organizers discovered a solution to bolster audiences and attract attention of filmgoers around the world: that explains why the already existing Virtual Reality events associated with festivals gained a new dimension, offering their content to anyone with a VR headset. The Cannes XR Virtual had its first edition this year, and events like the Venice VR Expanded or the LFF Expanded demonstrate the potential for this new way to share narratives from different filmmakers and artists.

No one knows if and when the world returns to the “normal” we knew before the pandemic, but whatever the future brings us, the couple of years, and in some cases the recent months, have moved technology forward more than many imagined. As Aaron Linne, Microsoft Teams Senior Product Manager, said recently, “we did two years or more of digital evolution in about two weeks or two months and that’s going to continue”, while talking about the growing use of communication tools.

How game engines and VR are changing filmmakingWatching movies at home in VR

Film festivals will return in their previous form, but it’s highly probable that the virtual side of them will continue and expand. Industry events like SIGGRAPH 2021, for example, are planned to go back to Los Angeles, but the organizers already confirmed that the aim is to have a hybrid physical and virtual event. Filmmaking will also resume, while the growing use of tools based on game engines and Virtual Reality will contribute to make production faster and more accessible to many.

As new VR headsets enter the market, some, as the HP Reverb G2, offering resolutions – 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye – that suggest better ways to watch content, when connected to a PC capable of deliver the best visual experience, both consumers and professionals using the tools have access to better technology and, one hopes, more immersive experiences, suggesting we’re getting closer to Jaron Lanier’s dream.

As we move into the Winter months and more people stay inside, also due to the situation caused by the pandemic, it’s only natural that more people want to try the options offered by VR. As apps like BigScreen continue to offer an alternative to going to the movies in VR, we may see the interest in VR headsets to rise next Christmas. I must confess I am eager to receive my HP Reverb G2 headset and discover how watching films in VR has improved.

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creatives

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creativesSony announced the Spatial Reality Display (SR Display), said to offer designers and creators in film the means to bring ideas to life in stunning 3D displays, without the need for special glasses or HMDs.

Sony first showed the new Spatial Reality Display (SR Display) to attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of this year, but now the company has it available for sale… if you’ve $4,999.99 to buy this display that does not require virtual reality glasses or any other type of headset. You also need a powerful computer to use it. Sony recommends an Intel Core i7-9700K @3.60GHz or faster, and a graphics card such as NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER or faster.

While it is obvious that this does not mean that 3D TV is going to return – if it ever was here! –  it is also true that these technologies have a place and a market. Sony Electronics says that the SR Display, made with Sony’s award-winning Eye-Sensing Light Field Display (ELFD) technology, “enables creators across a variety of industries, from automotive and industrial design, to Computer Graphics (CG) and Visual Effects (VFX) designers and creators in film to bring ideas to life in stunning 3D displays.”

“We’re excited to bring the world’s best technology to bear, moving the design and creation industry forward, particularly as the shift to digital has become so pronounced,” stated Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics North America. “This technology drives new versatility, allowing us to advance an entirely new medium and experience for designers and creators everywhere.”

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creativesThe technologies in the Spatial Reality Display

Sony claims that all you need are your eyes to experience this “extraordinary 3D image quality”. The company says that the SR Display uses spatial reality to combine the virtual and physical world, and creates an incredible 3D optical experience that is viewable to the naked eye. This is made possible by several technologies:

  • High-speed Vision Sensor – The SR Display is based an innovative high-speed vision sensor which follows exact eye position in space, on vertical, horizontal and depth axes simultaneously. The display monitors eye movement down to the millisecond, while rendering the image instantaneously, based on the location and position of the viewer’s eyes. This allows creators to interact with their designs in a highly-realistic virtual, 3D environment, from any angle without glasses.
  • Real-time Rendering Algorithm – Additionally, the SR Display leverages an original processing algorithm to display content in real-time. This allows the stereoscopic image to appear as smooth as real life, even if the viewer moves around.
  • Micro Optical Lens – The micro optical lens is positioned precisely over the stunning 15.6 inches (diag.) LCD display. This lens divides the image into the left and right eyes allowing for stereoscopic viewing with just the naked eye.

Sony’s dedicated SDK makes it easy for designers to create content for the Spatial Reality Display. The SDK is compatible with industry-standard tools Unity and Unreal Engine, so creators can work within an already-familiar production environment, and can be used to develop interactive applications in gaming, VR, construction, and automotive design. The SR Display developer site has more info.

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creativesSR Display used in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

Sony says that “for filmmakers, graphic artists, engineers and product designers in corporate and industrial settings, the cutting-edge 3D visual technology of the SR Display delivers a futuristic, yet highly practical visual experience, where detailed colors, textures, contrasts and brightness fuse, to form a new medium for image, character and product design and visualization.” The company adds that “for example, in the automotive industry, there is potential to integrate the product early on in the new vehicle design ideation process, improving quality, speed and the tangible nature of the concepts themselves.”

“At Volkswagen, we’ve been evaluating Sony’s Spatial Reality Display from its early stages, and we see considerable usefulness and multiple applications throughout the ideation and design process, and even with training,” commented Frantisek Zapletal, Virtual Engineering Lab US, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. “We’re excited to continue blazing trails and collaborating with Sony to find practical use cases for this innovative product at Volkswagen.”

To highlight the capabilities of this “cutting-edge technology”, Sony Electronics collaborated with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Columbia Pictures subsidiary Ghost Corps on the upcoming Ghostbusters film, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” scheduled for release in 2021. The collaboration focused on using the Spatial Reality Display to bring both familiar and new film characters to life, through the groundbreaking visual medium.

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creativesFrom pre-visualization to 3D modeling

“We have been working with the Sony team to bring Ghostbusters characters and assets to life using Sony’s Spatial Reality Display,” noted Eric Reich, brand and franchise executive at Ghost Corps. “Moving forward, we could see potential benefits from pre-visualization to 3D modeling. The display offers a new approach to visualizing concepts and characters, making understanding the finished product that much easier.”

You may thing that this is something new, but you’re wrong. In fact, ProVideo Coalition mentioned, on June 14, 2019, a live demonstration of another 3D solution, the world’s first holographic desktop display, by the Looking Glass Factory, during that month’s meeting of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. The event, under the title “Building Truly Immersive Experiences: Are You Ready for the Holodeck?”, hosted a panel discussion by representatives of companies that are founding members of the Immersive Digital Reality Alliance, IDEA.

It was during the meeting that Looking Glass Factory, a company dedicated to building the holographic future, demonstrated its Looking Glass, introduced in 2018 as, claims the company, “the world’s first desktop holographic display for 3D creators”. Looking Glass Factory has a massive 32-inch and headset-free, the Looking Glass 8K, which as the company says “is optimized for viewers of any visual acuity and age. Everyone can just see it.”

Sony Spatial Reality Display: 3D without glasses for creatives
The Looking Glass 8K, a 32-inch display

Ultra-D, holographic displays and VR

Although companies like Stream TV Networks continue to suggest that their technology Ultra-D can bring 3D to the living room, the reality of the market does seem to suggest otherwise. The Sony Spatial Reality Display, although 3D, is aimed at a completely different market, as are the holographic solutions from Looking Glass Factory. In the end, for a real immersion in 3D, nothing beats what Virtual Reality offers, even if wearing a helmet may not contribute to make the experience comfortable for many.

One thing is true, though, and I do speak from experience: once you try Virtual Reality, you’ll want to add it to your platforms to discover the world of storytelling. There is no real immersion looking at a screen, even 3D, because as soon as you gaze elsewhere the magic is gone. Not in VR, and Head Mounted Headsets like the upcoming HP Reverb G2, which is both light and has excellent resolution, may help to attract more people to the experience of VR. Which is just another platform or means to reach an end, like the Sony SR Display is.

If you’re curious about the Spatial Reality Display and want to know more, Sony will be hosting a virtual demo of this product on October 22, 2020 at 12pm PT for creators to see how the product works and to ask questions. If you are interested in attending the demo, please follow the link to register.

As noted earlier, the Sony Spatial Reality Display has a suggested retail price of $4,999.99 USD and $6,649.99 CAN. It will be available to order on Sony’s direct e-commerce site and other retailers in November.

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experience

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceHere is a demo for you to listen to: the whole 3D audio recording of the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra concert, with 34 musicians, 30 microphones, and 600 audio channels, totals 3 hours and 700 GB of audio data. Enjoy!

Zylia, an industry leader in the field of 3D audio recording, continues to promote its solution for anything from VR and AR to games of concert streaming. The most recent example is a 4-minute demo that takes you to the stage as the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra plays the overture from “The Marriage of Figaro”, from W. A. Mozart. The video premiered on YouTube and Facebook recently shows how it works when each listener can enact their own audio path and get a real being-there sound experience.

With 34 musicians on stage and 30 Zylia 3’rd order Ambisonics microphones, the company showed the possibilities of the Zylia 6 Degrees of Freedom Navigable Audio system – a breakthrough in sound streaming. Zylia’s system does offer a new way of experiencing the sound trough the Internet, which may be just what we need, now that so many things are being offered online, either pre-recorded or live.

Zylia notes that the virtual concert with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra is a “real being-there sound experience” but I dare to suggest that it goes beyond that, because you’re not just sitting on the third row in front of the stage, through the magic of the system you can move around the stage, and listen to the music from different spots, following the musical flow or listening to a specific instrument you want to listen to. No other sound system allows you to do that, as far as I know!

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceNumber of streaming events continues to grow

While it may not be as perfect as some wish, Zylia’s 6 Degrees of Freedom Navigable Audio system puts an impressive show. We’ve shown some more about the system before, here at ProVideo Coalition, and this new example will immerse and convince you. Just get your headphones and sit back, while watching the video. It’s not difficult to imagine what this can do for a whole variety of musical experiences. Not to mention how the system makes sense for Virtual Reality experiences, where the viewer is placed inside a 3D space. 3D sound is necessary for those experiences.

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceThe demo with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra comes at a time when the number of streaming events continues to grow. After an initial period where no one knew exactly what to do next and hoped that “next month we will be back to normal again” now everybody, musicians, comedians, actors, and television personalities are connecting with their public through Facebook, YouTube, Tweeter, Instagram, Twitch, Zoom, TikTok and their own websites.

The pandemic moved the whole world online and from live performances at home or at venues without an in-house audience to pre-recorded material – we all have seen our share of Zoom concerts – artists are trying to cheer up their fans and offset their losses from canceled or postponed live events. Either way, the public demand for streaming footage is huge and still grows. American “billboard” magazine publishes every week all the live streams and virtual concerts to watch during corona virus crisis. Since March 2020, they put on the list over 800 events, and that’s just the beginning, as there is almost everything there: concerts, digital festivals, virtual exhibitions, talking panels, readings, movies, theater plays and many others.

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceBroadcasting concerts during a pandemic

Audio is a key part of any performance, and we’ve seen how audio is still a problem through these last months: while webcams and video technology have reached a point where the image offered is enough for professional use, in many cases, audio is not always at the same level of quality. As streaming, live or pre-recorded, becomes not an after thought but the plan A for many artists, big or small, those players need to find a way to stand out of the forming crowd when showing their work through the Internet.

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceZylia believes the company has a solution: its unique 6 Degrees of Freedom Navigable Audio recording can be a breakthrough in the streaming of sound. Their work with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra, from Poland, is a real-world example of what can be achieved. “In the last months, we faced a problem of making concerts without a public. We’ve been broadcasting the concerts, but it produced a lot of problems on how to show the acoustic of the hall, – says Łukasz Borowicz, the Principal Guest Conductor of Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra.

Zylia’s solution used during Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra concert allowed to record an entire sound field around and within the performance. For a common listener it means that while listening they can walk through the audio space freely. For instance, they can approach the stage, or even step on the stage to stand next to the musician. At every point, the sound they hear is a bit different, as in real life. “This is something particularly important in the Zylia system – Łukasz Borowicz – it makes it possible to listen to the orchestra not only from one fixed place. You can go to the balcony or the last row and acoustic changes.”

Zylia navigable audio system: a 3D sound experienceBehind the Scenes of a concert

The recording with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra using Zylia’s 6 Degrees of Freedom Navigable Audio system was made with:

  • 30 ZM-1S mics – 3rd order Ambisonics microphones with synchronization
  • Two MacBooks pro – for recording
  • A single PC Linux workstation – as a backup for recordings
  • 600 audio channels – 20 channels from each ZM-1S mic multiplied by 30 units

The result can be experienced in the demonstration video and explored further in the Behind the Scenes video also published by Zylia. The listener can navigate smoothly around the scene and experience the sound from anyplace – close perspective, the backstage or the audience. Notice how the sound changes while passing by the musicians. The 6 Degrees of Freedom in Zylia’s solution name refers to 6 directions of possible movement: up and down, left and right, forward and backwards, rotation left and right, tilting forward and backward, rolling sideways.

For the team at Zylia responsible for the project, this is an example of what the future can bring. Tomasz Żernicki, CEO of Zylia says “when we look into the future, what we see is a completely different world of interaction with creative art. We see streaming platforms enabling people to participate in concerts of any artists they want. Platforms that they can enter from their homes and join the experience with their friends. We see hyper-realistic games, both visually and audibly, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the plot. Finally, we see virtual reality creations, available for everybody from anywhere in the world and limited only by the imagination of their designers. Zylia Navigable Audio is a huge step in that direction, and we are very proud of the impact that we are having on the future of 3D audio technology.”

One final word, from Wojciech Nentwig, director of the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra: “I am not a fan of experiencing classical music through electronic media. However, I admit that the recording made by the Zylia team surprised me very pleasantly. I am glad that thanks to this innovative form of recording, classical music can reach even wider audiences. Congratulations to the Zylia team for an interesting research and such achievement.”

Bodyless: a surreal “must see” Virtual Reality experience

Bodyless: a surreal “must see” VR experienceBodyless is a surreal VR experience that is free to watch on Steam platform until October 15, 2020. Created by director Hsin-Chien Huang, it’s an excellent example of Virtual Reality storytelling.

Based on the director’s childhood memory during Taiwan’s martial law period in the 1970s, Bodyless is a surreal VR experience in which the player becomes a deceased political prisoner’s ghost in his journey to find his way home. The 25-minute experience uses technology to immerse the viewer into tradition, but also to make us reflect on how little has changed since a time when human qualities were simplified and quantified with few characteristics recognized and measured by the ruling class.

Bodyless: a surreal “must see” VR experienceThe text introducing Bodyless notes that “although the era has long gone, the emerging digital technologies follows suit. Governments started to use new technologies like digital surveillance, big data and AI as means to monitor and control people. Powerful world leader uses tweets less than 140 characters to set the course for his country. Human beings are reduced to a few pixels on the screen and left to the military drone pilot to decide for their lives.”

It’s as if nothing has changed. In Bodyless, the retrospective martial law governing and ultramodern digital technologies are fused into a dark oppression against folk’s living and beliefs. The audience experiences the journey through the eyes of an old man who was a political criminal under a government’s secret experiment. After his death, he became a ghost and descended to the underworld.

Bodyless: a surreal “must see” VR experienceA voyage into Taiwan’s folk culture

In Taiwanese folk belief, during “Ghost Month”, the hell gate will open for ghosts to visit their families. The old man’s ghost makes up his face and ascends to earth. Through his eyes, the folk culture forms a rich spiritual world interwoven with nature. However, a mechanical force starts to deteriorate the spiritual world and eventually reduces human forms and memory into simple geometrical shapes that can be easily processed by the technologies.

Bodyless can be explored in a guided or free mode, the first giving you the flow of the narrative, the second allowing viewers to explore at their own pace the different areas visited. It’s worthwhile to try both modes, as they allow for completely different experiences and the second visit will reveal details that may have not been dully appreciated on the guided tour. As Bodyless VR is only available on Steam until October 15, 2020, as part of a special screening for Ars Electronica Festival 2020, I urge you to grab a VR headset and try it. It’s one of the “must see” experiences now available to understand how narratives can flow using the medium.

It’s unfortunate that, due to the fact that Steam’s interface classifies everything as “games”, users who apparently never bother to read the info added to each title, end writing comments like this: “Honestly, don’t waste your time on this game, even if its free… total waste of time…” Bodyless is not a game, it’s an experience as so many others that are available on Steam, which now offers a ample number of this type of Virtual Reality titles.

Bodyless: a surreal “must see” VR experienceFrom Bodyless to Phantasmagoria

Bodyless may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s a sound, if surreal experience that is both beautiful and terrible. It offers viewers a glimpse of Taiwan’s traditions and takes us to a period in the 1970s when Taiwan was under martial law, seen here through Hsin-Chien Huang’s childhood memories and documents from the period. There is also a message regarding the present waiting for you there…

To fully appreciate Bodyless you need to go beyond the flat screen and use a VR headset. But the experience was also translated into an augmented reality electronic music concert, with musician Lim Giong creating the sound tapestry for the live performance named Phantasmagoria. The imaginary CGI elements are projected into reality with robotic arm and real-time AR compositing software to create an immersive experience with spiritual symbols and rituals.

Bodyless received a Special Mention at the 2019 Kaohsiung Film Festival and an Honorary Mention in the Computer Animation category of Prix Ars Electronica 2020 and has been an official selection at multiple festivals, from Venice to Geneva or Hawaii. Hsin-Chien Huang, who returned to Taiwan in 2001, worked previously with computer entertainment companies like Sega and Sony as art director.  He is currently a devoted artist and teaches at several universities on interactive media.

These Free Steam Games Let You Roam Realistic Locations with a Camera

Australian indie game developer Matt Newell has released a new free Steam game called Castle Rock Beach, West Australia. It allows you to freely explore a realistic recreation of Australia’s southwest coast with a camera.

Just check out these screenshots for a taste of how beautiful and photorealistic the immersive world is:

Here’s a 2-minute video showing what gameplay looks like:

The game allows you to explore the world at your own pace while completing casual photography objectives with the in-game DSLR camera.

What’s impressive is that Newell is a full-time engineering student at university who’s doing this game development in his free time. Newell shares that he had experience in photography and color before he started learning to build with Unreal Engine in February 2018.

Newell built the game over 9 months (again, in his free time) by bringing in photoscanned models (of things like plants, rocks, trees), working on lighting/color, and adding interactive elements.

This latest game joins a growing list of locations Newell has released already.

In May 2020, Newell released Wakamarina Valley, New Zealand, which is set in the idyllic forested landscape of the Wakamarina Valley, located near Queen Charlotte Sound on New Zealand’s South Island.

In March 2020, Newell released Mýrdalssandur, Iceland, which focuses on Iceland’s southern coast.

Newell’s first release was in October 2019. Titled Explore Fushimi Inari, the game is a realistic recreation of the renowned Japanese shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha.

All four games are available on Steam and have VR headset compatibility (though compatibility may cost you a little money). The basic West Australia, Iceland, and Japan games are free, while the New Zealand game costs $4.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… online

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineFrom short films to the LFF Expanded, the festival’s virtual exhibition of XR and Immersive art, the next BFI London Film Festival starts soon, and you can participate online and in VR.

As a growing number of film festivals go online, having a Virtual Reality headset becomes necessary if you want to discover some of the most exciting new productions in the area, be it 360 films like Odyssey 1.4.9 from François Vautier or Agence a Virtual Reality-experiment where you play god and have a chance at remodeling the universe. We’ve seen it at events like the recent Venice Film Festival, where the Venice VR Expanded section could be explored online, with VR headsets. The British festival continues the trend.

The BFI London Film Festival moves online, due to the pandemic, and much of the festival can be followed online, with free online talks, panels and events accessible across the world. With over 50 virtual premieres, free online events and cinema screening, the 64th BFI London Film Festival offers twelve days of UK premieres, all available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

With Virtual Reality offering new ways to share stories, we’ve seen new productions making the festival’s circuit around the world. At BFI Southbank, there will an opportunity to experience LFF Expanded, the festival’s virtual exhibition of XR and Immersive art at the event’s Blue Room exhibition. This exhibition must be pre-booked – tickets are free, but limited. But VR is so much intertwined with online that it makes sense to also share some of those experiences on the Internet, where there is no limit in terms of the public, besides opening an event to more than local audiences.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineThe pandemic and the rupture of business models

Audiences of the LFF Expanded are also invited, as a one-off for 2020, to take the place of the festival’s official jury. Dedicated screenings, events and industry talks will all be presented digitally, with two keynotes presented live to ensure audience interaction. The 64th BFI London Film Festival unveils an  industry programme  that probes key learnings and experiences that  have  emerged  during a  tumultuous  and historical 2020, a year in which creatives seek new ways to collaborate across fractured media, cultural and  social landscapes.

Talks and panel events will explore themes arising from the rupture of business models accelerated by the pandemic and also as a response to demands to tackle systemic bias in the cultural industries. The programme will also examine the increasingly blurred boundaries between formats and platforms, and new opportunities which can emerge through partnership and collaboration.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineBFI London Film Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle said: “We always planned to make changes to our 2020 industry programme to reflect the Festival’s evolution to include series and also XR and immersive arts but  we  also  launch this  all  digital  edition  at  a  time  of  immense  uncertainty. Our screen and  cultural industries are grappling with unprecedented change due to the enormous economic uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, but also as we question the long term viability of cultural industries which have excluded so many and privileged and centred so few. As we emerge from this period and look for answers, we are delighted to be joined by established international leaders and also some bold emerging leaders who are highly regarded as risk-takers, innovators, great collaborators and creative thinkers”.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineOdyssey 1.4.9 and Recoding Entropia

The festival’s website offers a detailed view of all the talks and presentations, including information about the titles presented at the LFF Expanded, which are those more easily available to audiences worldwide. The LFF Expanded section also has a series of 13 events, besides the 360 films, VR interactive experiments and Augmented Reality installation.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineOdyssey 1.4.9 and Recoding Entropia, from François Vautier, are two of the 360 films presented at the festival. The first is the author’s multi-sensory expedition using footage from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey to explore its thematic core. The second title, about which we wrote before, is an audio-visual voyage that takes us through an endless cycle of evanescence and rebirth in a in a journey of profound beauty and splendor. Both are excellent titles to show the power of VR and 360 films to immerse the viewer into the flow of the narrative.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineAbel Ferrara’s Birds of Prey

In the interactive experiments segment you have the chance to watch titles as Missing Pictures – Birds of Prey, in which award-winning director Abel Ferrara (Pasolini, King of New York) gives an insight into Birds of Prey, his sensational movie concept that was never realized. Also present at LFF Expanded is Agence, which is an experiment in artificial intelligence and storytelling – a dynamic Virtual Reality film that is never the same with each experience.

Agence places you in the position of an almighty creator interfering with the everyday struggle of simple – but basically intelligent – creatures struggling to survive on a barren planet. Your choices result in life or death, order or chaos. You can then study those results, perhaps even be surprised by your own desire for omnipotence and power. Canada-based director Pietro Galliano claims, “I use the future to make art”. It’s the perfect manifesto for his AI-driven virtual creation.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival reaches the whole world… onlineStart with a Google Cardboard

Icarus, another interactive title present at the festival – previously seen at Cannes XR – is a thrilling take on a classic story whose visual and aural invention envelops you: reach towards the sun in this ground-breaking adaption of the ancient Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, by acclaimed Canadian theatre director Michel Lemieux. You’ll need a PCVR headset to fully immerse into the experience.

There are many other reasons to visit the 64th BFI London Film Festival between 7 and 18 October 2020. Grab your VR headset, sit comfortably at home and enter the LFF Expanded. If you are curious about the world of XR but don’t have a headset or Google Cardboard, you can explore the virtual space LFF Expanse via a web browser. It is also possible to watch a selection of 360 videos from the LFF Expanded programme on the 360 Player.

Titles as Odyssey 1.4.9 and Recoding Entropia are viewable without a VR headset, but believe me, you’ll only see them as François Vautier intended with a VR headset, when the whole experience turns immersive. While the quality will not be the same, a Google Cardboard, which costs around $10, will allow you to experience XR and immersive art without breaking the bank. And with more festivals coming, maybe you will want, after the first experiences, to treat yourself to the best in PCVR, with the next-generation HP Reverb G2 Windows Mixed Reality headset.

One final word about the festival. BFI London Film Festival is Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s best film festivals. It introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience and attracts significant international film industry participation. LFF is a compelling combination of diverse films, red carpet glamour, friendly audiences and vibrant exchange. LFF provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success; promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry and awards programmes and positions London as the world’s leading creative city.