OWC 12.4

Talking to Assimilate about new VR dailies/review tool

CEO Jeff Edson and VP of biz dev Lucas Wilson answer our questions

By Randi Altman

As you can tell from our recent Sundance coverage, postPerspective has a little crush on VR. While we know that today’s VR is young and creatives are still figuring out how it will be used — narrative storytelling, gaming, immersive concerts (looking at you Paul McCartney), job training, therapy, etc. — we cannot ignore how established film fests and trade shows are welcoming it, or the tools that are coming out for its production and post.

One of those tools comes from Assimilate, which is expanding its Scratch Web cloud-platform capabilities to offer a professional, web-based dailies/review tool for reviewing headset-based 360-degree VR content, regardless of location.

How does it work? Kind of simply: Users launch this link vr360.sweb.media on an Android phone (Samsung S6 or other) via Chrome, click the goggles in the lower right corner, put it in their Google Cardboard and view immediate headset-based VR. Once users launch the Scratch Web review link for the VR content, they can playback VR imagery, pan around imagery or create a “magic window” so they can move their smart phone around, similar to looking through a window to see the 360-degree content behind it.

The VR content, including metadata, is automatically formatted for 360-degree video headsets, such as Google Cardboard. The reviewer can then make notes and comments on their mobile device to send back to the sender. The company says they will be announcing support for other mobile devices, headsets and browsers in the near future.

On the heels of this news, we decided to reach out to Assimilate CEO Jeff Edson and VP of business development Lucas Wilson to find out more.

Assimilate has been offering tools for VR, but with this new dailies and reviews tool, you’ve taken it to a new level. Can you talk about the evolution of how you service VR and how this newest product came to be?
Jeff Edson: Professional imagery needs professional tools and workflows to succeed. Much like imagery evolutions to date (digital cinema), this is a new way to capture and tell stories and provide experiences. VR provides a whole new way for people to tell stories amongst other experiences.

So regarding the evolution of tools, Scratch has supported the 360 format for a while now. It has allowed people to playback their footage as well as do basic DI — basic functionality to help produce the best output. As the production side of VR continues to evolve, the workflow aligns itself with a more standard process. This means the same toolset for VR as exists for non-VR. Scratch Web-VR is the natural progression to provide VR productions with the ability to review dailies worldwide.

Lucas Wilson: When VR first started appearing as a real deliverable for creative professionals, Assimilate jumped in. Scratch has supported 360 video live to an Oculus Rift for more than a year now. But with the new Scratch Web toolset and the additional tools added in Scratch to make 360 work more easily and be more accessible, it is no longer just a feature added to a product. It is a workflow and process — review and approval for Cardboard via a web link, or via the free Scratch Play tool, along with color and finishing with Scratch.

It seems pretty simple to use, how are you able to do this via the cloud and through a standard browser?
Jeff: The product is very straight forward to use, as there is a very wide range of people who will have access to it, most of whom do not want the technology to get in the way of the solution. We work very hard at the core of all we have developed — interactive performance.

Lucas: Good programmers (smiles)! Seriously though, we looked at what was needed and what was missing in the VR delivery chain and tried to serve those needs. Scratch Web allows users to upload a clip and generate a link that will work in Cardboard. Review and approval is now just clicking a link and putting your phone into a headset.

What’s the price?
Jeff: The same price as Scratch Web — Free-Trial, Basic-$79/month, Extended-$249/month and Enterprise for special requirements.

Prior to this product, how were those working on VR production going about dailies and reviews?
Jeff: In most cases they were doing it by looking at output from several cameras for review. The main process for viewing was to edit and publish. There really was no tool targeted at dailies/review of VR.

Lucas: It has been really difficult. Reviews are typically done on a flat screen and by guessing, or by reverse engineering MilkVR or Oculus Videos in GearVR.

Can you talk about real-world testing of the product? VR productions that used this tool?
Lucas: We have a few large productions doing review and approval right now with Scratch Web. We can’t talk about them yet, but one of them is the first VR project directed by an A-List director. There are also two of the major sports leagues in the US who employed the tool.


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