A Window into the Virtual World—Virtual Production, VR, and Mocap

2017 NAB Show Editorial Submission
by Brett Ineson

Virtual reality is being used in increasingly creative ways, whether curbing the pain of surgery, revolutionizing the music industry, or changing the face of our shopping habits. It’s inspiring stuff.

The technology behind VR is nothing new—companies in the military and manufacturing sectors have used head mounted displays to visualise live mocap for the past 15 years or so. But, it’s only since the entertainment industry started to explore and integrate the technology into their work that the real VR boom kicked off.

At Animatrik, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of our clients who want to use VR in their films, TV shows and video games over the past couple of years.

It’s interesting to note that incorporating VR into a motion capture project can also be hugely beneficial to both the VR and mocap processes. In the VR world you want your audience to explore the landscape, people, and buildings—you want them to be completely immersed. To achieve this, the characters must be 3D. Right now, the best way to do that is using mocap.

The inclusion of mocap enables us to reproduce the nuances of the actors and in turn, their characters in 3D, in such a way that the audience will remain connected to the story. That is the crux of our job—we’re reproducing human motion so it doesn’t break the audience connection, which is all the more important in an experience as personal and immediate as VR.

It’s worth noting that shooting VR and mocap requires no convoluted pipeline of software and tools. We use our normal pipeline. Indeed, the video game producers were early adopters of mocap technology and the VR industry is predominantly powered by game engines. It’s a natural fit.

It all depends on whether VR is the end product or being used for visualisation. We’re working on a basketball game for one of our clients where the VR element of the game is the player itself. So, we’re shooting the mocap business as usual, and the player will wear the goggles and see the all the other players—we’re providing the animation, ensuring that the experience feels as physically real as possible.

If the VR is being used for art direction, things are a little different: the user would be immersed on the stage, able to look around the environment and see the digital world that the actors are interacting with. For projects like this, we turn to our virtual camera, which acts as window into the world. We call this ‘virtual production’.

In fact, even if we’re using a VR headset, the virtual camera plays a pivotal role, simply because it’s more interactive and allows for more collaboration on set. That always results in better, higher-quality creative content.

What does the future hold? I think we’re going to see more art direction achieved with headsets. Studios like ours will be tasked with creating multiple windows into the virtual world. It won’t just be the art director who will want to throw the goggles on and take a look around, but the directors, the DoPs, even the actors. They can have a collaborative conversation about what they’re seeing—a world that was previously contained behind the screen.

Ultimately, at Animatrik, whether it’s games, films or commercials, we want to be the people providing the visualisation, rather than the just a studio creating the visualisation. VR and virtual production enables that.


Broadcast Beat Magazine is an Official NAB Show Media partner and we cover Broadcast Engineering, Radio & TV Technology for the Animation, Broadcasting, Motion Picture and Post Production industries. We cover industry events and conventions like BroadcastAsia, CCW, IBC, SIGGRAPH, Digital Asset Symposium and more!
Broadcast Beat Magazine
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource