Tag Archives: virtual reality

Jaunt raises additional $65 million to advance VR filmmaking

In case you were wondering if VR was the real deal, well check this news out. Jaunt has raised $65 million in a Series C round of funding led by The Walt Disney Company, Evolution Media Partners and China-based China Media Capital (CMC). The new investment brings Jaunt’s total funding to over $100 million and positions the company as the best-capitalized player in content creation and technology for cinematic VR.

This latest round of funding will enable Jaunt to significantly scale up cinematic VR production and advance its professional-grade camera hardware and software production tools, with the aim of making VR the next mainstream content medium.

In addition, Jaunt plans to use the funding to expand its teams in both its Palo Alto headquarters and its new Los Angeles studio.

Additional new investors in the Series C round include leading European media companies ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE and Axel Springer SE, and The Madison Square Garden Company. They join existing participating investors that include Google Ventures, Highland Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Sky Investment Group and SV Angel.

IKinema at SIGGRAPH with tech preview of natural language interface

IKinema, a provider of realtime animation software for motion capture, games and virtual reality using inverse kinematics, has launched a new natural language interface designed to enable users to produce animation using descriptive commands based on everyday language. The technology, code-named Intimate, is currently in prototype as part of a two-year project with backing by the UK government’s Innovate UK program.

The new interface supplements virtual reality technology such as Magic Leap and Microsoft HoloLens, offering new methods for creating animation that are suitable for professionals but also simple enough for a mass audience. The user can bring in a character and then animate the character from an extensive library of cloud animation, simply by describing what the character is supposed to do.

Intimate is targeted to many applications including pre-production, games, virtual production, virtual and augmented reality and more. The technology is expected to become commercially available in 2016 and the aim is to make an SDK available to any animation package. Currently, the company has a working prototype and has engaged with top studios for the purpose of technology validation and development.

Nvidia takes on VR with DesignWorks VR at SIGGRAPH

At SIGGRAPH in LA, Nvidia introduced DesignWorks VR, a set of APIs, libraries and features that enable both VR headset and application developers to deliver immersive VR experiences. DesignWorks VR includes components that enable VR environments like head-mounted displays (HMDs), immersive VR spaces such as CAVEs and other immersive displays, and cluster solutions. DesignWorks VR builds on Nvidia’s existing GameWorks VR SDK for game developers, with improved support for OpenGL and features for professional VR applications.

Ford VR

At its SIGGRAPH 2015 booth, Nvidia featured a VR demonstration by the Ford Motor Company in which automotive designers and engineers were able to simulate the interiors and exteriors of vehicles in development within an ultra high-definition virtual reality space. By using new tools within DesignWorks VR, Ford and Autodesk realized substantial performance improvements to make the demo smooth and interactive.

In addition, Nvidia highlighted an immersive Lord of the Rings VR experience created by Weta Digital and Epic Games and powered the Nvidia Quadro M6000. At Nvidia’s “Best of GTC Theater,” companies such as Audi and Videostich  spoke on their work with VR in design.

Mirada helps FX promote ‘The Strain’ in 360-degrees

LA’s Mirada, a design, VFX and animation studio founded by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, partnered with Headcase and ad agency Digital Kitchen to create an immersive VR experience to promote season two of FX’s The Strain, developed by Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

The Strain VR experience follows the character Vasiliy Fet, a former Ukranian rat exterminator, as he leads viewers on a 360-degree journey through an abandoned warehouse, all while under constant threat of attack from vampires.

Mirada built a custom VR application to run the experience wirelessly across six Samsung Gear VR headsets, allowing multiple viewers to engage in the experience at the same time. The application also facilitated the playback of realtime vision-distorting effects in the VR headset, simulating blinking eyes and tunnel vision to heighten suspense.

“Even though the Gear VR comes with a solid stock 360-degree video player, the platform that we developed allowed us customize this app in a really unique way,” reports Mirada technical director Andrew Cochrane (pictured right on set). “We had total control over the experience – from sync to realtime effects and spatial audio – we even disabled the touchpad to prevent viewers from accidentally pausing the video.”

Mirada facilitated the VR pipeline for the entire project and worked closely with Headcase from the start of pre-pro. Live action was captured using a cinema-grade spherical camera rig developed by Headcase, and Cochrane was on set to provide technical and creative supervision.

Mirada stitched the multi camera footage together into 360-degree scenes for dailies that were sent back to Headcase for editorial. Once Headcase locked picture with FX Network, Mirada proceeded to final spherical stitching, articulate clean-up and compositing, custom spatial audio playback for the project and designing the final delivery application.

They also called on Nuke, Resolve, and After Effects for the piece.

The VR pipeline for The Strain was developed using a suite of tools that Mirada designed, initially customized to power the Google Shop VR experience, the studio’s first immersive cinema project that debuted in April of 2015.

Cinematic pro camera system for VR from Jaunt

Jaunt, a company focusing on content for virtual reality, has launched a series of professional-grade camera systems designed for capturing fully immersive 360-degree cinematic VR experiences. The new Neo series facilitates high-quality, high-resolution capture using custom optics designed for 3D light-field capture, large-format sensors with superior low-light performance and a fully synchronized global shutter sensor array.

Neo offers turn-on-and-shoot simplicity for capturing spontaneous events while also providing full manual control. In addition to 360-degree capture, the camera system supports high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, as well as timelapse and high frame rate (HFR) capture. It features a 360-degree industrial, design by Lunar, and housed in a compact and weatherproof form factor, Neo offers an extensive tool set for configuration, rendering and asset management.

According to CTO Arthur van Hoff, “We have been experimenting with off-the-shelf components for the past two years, and we have learned a lot. The Neo camera is the result of this research and fixes many of the challenges that we encountered. It allows us to produce high-quality cinematic VR experiences reliably and quickly.”

Van Hoff went on to say that thanks to their own camera, the company “will be able to record in more situations that were previously challenging because of bad lighting or fast motion. It will greatly reduce the post production cost of VR experiences by providing higher quality captured data.”

The first Neo camera systems will be available to partners in August 2015, with production to scale up later this year. With the Neo camera system, Jaunt Studios, which was launched in May and develops and produces cinematic VR experiences in collaboration with creative filmmakers, will scale up production of professional-grade VR content.

Avid buys Orad, a good fit for its Avid MediaCentral Platform

Avid has completed its acquisition of Orad Hi-Tec Systems, a provider of 3D realtime graphics, video servers and related workflow management solutions. The Orad product lines complement the Avid MediaCentral Platform, and many of Avid’s and Orad’s solutions are already integrated and widely used together.

More than 600 customers worldwide rely on Orad’s technology to produce graphics, live events and sports broadcasts. Avid plans to expand its portfolio and distribution network with Orad’s comprehensive line of news, channel branding, sports production and enhancement, elections and special events, virtual studios, video walls and virtual advertisement products. With this expanded capability, media organizations on the Avid MediaCentral Platform should be able to reduce the burden of piecing together disparate fragmented workflows in their production environments, resulting in less complexity, fewer interoperability challenges and greater efficiency and productivity.

The combination of Avid and Orad is expected to deliver a number of benefits for customers of both companies, including enhanced integration between more Avid and Orad solutions, more comprehensive workflows, improved efficiency and more options for workflow management.

Chaos Group’s new V-Ray 3.2 for 3ds Max update is VR-ready

The Chaos Group has released V-Ray 3.2 for 3ds Max, a free update that introduces compatibility with 3ds Max 2016 and adds VR rendering capabilities and multiple V-Ray RT GPU enhancements.

Available for download at chaosgroup.com, V-Ray 3.2 for 3ds Max adds two new VR camera types to render stereo cube maps and spherical stereo images for VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. The update also offers V-Ray RT GPU improvements including displacement, anisotropic highlights, composite map, output curves, texture baking, UDIM support (Mari), and QMC sampling on Nvidia CUDA.

The update’s support for OpenVDB, Field3D, and Phoenix FD volume grid formats allows users to import and render data from popular effects applications such as Houdini and FumeFX. Newly equipped with distributed rendering, users also can add or remove distributed rendering nodes on the fly. An updated Light Cache algorithm removes light leaks and improves animation. With respect to geometry-ray 3.2 for 3ds Max includes new preview types for proxy objects, with mesh simplification for optimized proxy display; faster rendering of hair and fur; and Intel Embree support for 3ds Max Hair and Fur and V-Ray Fur. With support for 3ds Max 2016 comes full support for the new “physical camera” and its exposure control feature, as well as a new V-Ray lens analysis utility that adds support for the 3ds Max Physical Camera.

Deluxe latest studio to get into VR, immersive entertainment offerings

Deluxe is the second studio this week to put their hat in the growing VR ring — Lucasfilm and ILM also announced ILMxLAB. Deluxe is now offering a new slate of technology and services to develop content for immersive entertainment and virtual reality experiences.

Drawing on talent at Deluxe companies including Method Studios and Company 3, the new suite of virtual reality services extends Deluxe’s digital post capabilities into this new, high-growth content arena and establishes a workflow for building high-res 360 content.

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The company’s first VR project, Neuro (above), was developed with creative VR studio Kite & Lightning for GE, and it debuted on June 16 at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. Developed using AMD graphics technology, Neuro is a computer-generated five-minute immersive film shown on the latest VR headsets.

The video’s main character is a detailed photoreal digital model of Ladytron DJ/band member Reuben Wu, whose facial performance was captured and animated to match the narrated voiceover. Deluxe’s audio post department also provided ADR for the project. The Neuro VR experience will be featured again during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, June 21-27 in Cannes, France.

Main Image: Kite & Lightning working on Neuro.

Jaunt VR launches Jaunt Studios headed by Cliff Plumer

Virtual reality company Jaunt VR is opening Jaunt Studios, a new arm of the company that will focus solely on developing, producing and collaborating on live-action VR experiences. Jaunt Studios will work with creative talent to produce VR content. In addition to expanding collaborative projects with creatives and brands across music, adventure, travel, sports and other verticals, Jaunt Studios will also ramp up production of original, narrative VR content.

Jens Christiensen

Jens Christensen

Jaunt called on Hollywood vet Cliff Plumer (pictured above), formerly CEO of Digital Domain and CTO of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, to lead the endeavor. In addition, David Anderman, formerly COO and general counsel of Lucasfilm, has joined Jaunt VR as chief business officer to lead the new company’s business growth and help it meet the demand for custom VR experiences. Anderman was named Variety’s Dealmaker of the Year in 2012 for his work on Lucasfilm’s acquisition by Disney. Meanwhile Miles Perkins, Lucasfilm and ILM veteran and former head of corporate communications, will serve as Jaunt VR’s VP of marketing communications. While all Jaunt Studios employees will report to Plumer, Anderman, Perkins and Plumer report to Jaunt VR CEO Jens Christensen. Most under the Jaunt umbrella will be involved in the studio as well.

The new creative studio will have a location in Los Angeles, where its team will work directly with storytellers, filmmakers, musicians and artists. Jaunt’s team in Silicon Valley will continue to develop VR technology for creating cinematic VR, both in hardware and software.

To kick off the Jaunt Studios effort, Jaunt and Condé Nast Entertainment (CNÉ) announced a VR production deal at CNÉ’s Digital Content NewFront event on April 27. Jaunt Studios and CNÉ will produce two virtual reality series that explore CNÉ’s  portfolio of travel, lifestyle, fashion, sports and technology content. Jaunt Studios is also in negotiations with other top content partners.

Ntropic hosts VR Meetup at its New York studio

Ntropic New York recently hosted the High Line Virtual Reality (VR) Meetup for a night on Creating Immersive Virtual Reality Content and Scaling it to an Audience.

At the event, presented by Ntropic digital partners TACTIC and DODOcase, pioneer makers and distributors of VR content and hardware led a spirited conversation with agency executives and creatives on the state of the industry, their experiences in it and what VR production means for agencies and brands.

The first-in-a-series evening also gave attendees the opportunity to experience firsthand the scalable ways in which immersive content can reach a targeted audience.

“Ntropic has been working very closely with TACTIC in San Francisco for some time now and hosts events around technology there,” explains Tom Wright, managing director of Ntropic and co-founder, TACTIC. “New York is such a hotbed of content innovation it seemed like the right thing to do with that community. Between agencies, production companies, and people from worlds like real estate, technology, media and fashion it was a great turnout of like-minded creatives.”

Scratch Play V.8.2 offers support for Oculus Rift, new formats, cameras

Assimilate’s Scratch Play V.8.2, a free media player for pro and web formats, has added support for native realtime playback of cinematic content created for Oculus Rift – 360 virtual reality viewing.

Scratch Play v8.2, which is available immediately as a free download at www.assimilateinc.com, also supports several new cameras and formats, including the Blackmagic Pocket Camera, Magic Lantern support for Canon DSLRs, Panasonic RAW (vrw) and a performance boost for XAVC 4K.

Scratch Play also supports Cylindrical, Equirectangular and Cube formats for output to a secondary monitor or an Oculus Rift DKI or DKII. With a Rift connected, these formats are mapped in realtime to Rift output, with full head-tracking support.

Scratch Play will output in 360 mode with just a normal secondary display/monitor acting as a window into the virtual world, with realtime ability to pan, track and tilt around the sphere. This means that developers creating cinematic content for the Rift now have a playback tool that allows them to instantly review VR shots in realtime — whether or not they have a Rift headset.

“Scratch Play has increased my productivity when comparing footage and speeding up iterations for Cinematic VR,” says Greg Downing, CTO of xRez Studio in Santa Monica. “Being able to do A/B comparisons quickly, live in the Rift headset, is an effective way to rapidly evaluate your work and decide if you are going in the right direction.

“Another feature I really like that speeds up the workflow is the ability to read frame sequences rather than having to go through the additional steps of encoding a video,” he says. “Short-cutting the video encoding step when working with CGI, at this resolution, is a big time saver.”

Scratch Play Premium, the ad-free version of Play, is available with annual subscription of $5 per year.

Animation house Reel FX dives into VR with new division

With a groundswell moving toward more immersive content, animation studio Reel FX, with offices in Santa Monica and Dallas, has opened a virtual reality division, Reel FX VR. This new entity will create content for virtual reality platforms, including the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. The VR division is based in the studio’s Dallas office.

The division is focused on client work for major studios and commercial agencies. The idea for Reel FX VR was born after the release of multiple high-profile VR projects in early 2014 ranging from content for Chuck E. Cheese to a piece for Legendary Picture’s Pacific Rim, which debuted at 2014 ComicCon. More content debuted at IFA in Berlin in early September, including a mobile version of the Pacific Rim Jaeger Pilot experience and a stereo trailer for Reel FX’s own The Book of Life.

Reel FX’s history and relationship with Oculus Rift dates back to Oculus’ 2012 Kickstarter campaign. Founder and ECD Dale Carman was an early adopter of the technology and one of the first to begin developing for the platform.

“As a studio, we are passionate about finding, using, and pushing technology,” said Dale Carman, founder/executive creative director of Reel FX. “I knew the moment I encountered Oculus [Rift technology] on Kickstarter that it was magic. Creating these experiences for clients like Legendary and our own films and working closely with Samsung and Oculus has been a great journey so far, and we are excited about the future.”

ReelFX_VR

The relationship with Oculus and expertise in the technology has made Reel FX VR one of Oculus Rift’s top developers. “Legendary is always seeking out new entertainment frontiers and technology that can offer our fans a greater level of immersion,” added Emily Castel, chief marketing officer for Legendary Pictures. “Reel FX was a fantastic partner and their VR team did a terrific job at bringing the transportive universe of Pacific Rim to life.”

In preparation of the Reel FX VR launch, Reel FX has brought on multiple team members over the past year that will focus on and grow the VR business. Reel FX VR will be overseen by Carman, GM Keith McCabe and executive producer Gary Banks. Veteran interactive executive Dan Ferguson joined the team in late 2013 as director of digital interactive. Rounding out the unit is interactive account manager Tina Ghezzi. Artists from Reel FX’s feature and commercial crews will lead the creative teams.

Main Image:  Guillermo del Toro takes in Pacific Rim’s Oculus experience at Comic Con.