- Virtual production should be seen as a bridge leading both creators and consumers on to a future of immersive content and multimedia experiences.
- Content creators have been able to take tools and workflows developed to create virtual and augmented reality and apply them to traditional media formats.
- Younger content creators see content, tools and workflows in less siloed ways than their forebears did. Gaming, film, social media, and TV are all influencing each other.
- Learn more by signing up for the New Production Modalities exhibit floor tour at NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 16-18.
Lori H. Schwartz, Storytech principal and NAB Amplify content partner, recently interviewed Christina Heller about immersive content, Web3, and the tech and trends that are making it more accessible for creators and consumers.
Schwartz and Heller also preview the New Production Modalities tour at this April’s NAB Show, which Heller will be leading. Additionally, Heller is slated to speak on the same subject for a panel in the Create track.
Heller is founder and CEO of volumetric capture company Metastage. Its LA studio is kitted out with 106 cameras. Her company has offered volumetric capture for projects varying from fashion to music to sports training to enterprise.
Prior that, Heller founded VR Playhouse, a virtual reality content company. Heller is an expert on immersive video and has published on volumetric video and augmented reality and has a background in documentary filmmaking, multimedia content, and journalism.
The Virtualization of Content
“Immersive technology is the most multimedia collaborative form of creation, I think, that’s ever existed,” Heller explains, because it pulls from so many diverse backgrounds and skillsets “to create an experience.”
Ultimately, “Content is where it all comes together, right? Hardware, software, financing, distribution, audiences, UX, UI, all of it. So if you work in content, you have visibility into the entire ecosystem,” Heller says.
In her role at Metastage, Heller says she’ll be asked to take on projects for “an idea that I’ve never even considered before. And then as I’m learning about how we can execute that idea, I’m now becoming aware of, you know, the latest and greatest of tools and technology to do things like that.”
Content creators have been able to take tools and workflows developed to create virtual and augmented reality and apply them to traditional media formats. Heller says, “Virtual production pipelines and workflows… that’s been a really exciting development of the last two years” as they come into their full potential.
Significantly, these tools have “never been more accessible. They’ve never been more powerful. Things that really felt obscure, like Unity and Unreal [Engine], like maybe six years ago, now there’s free classes, there’s plenty of online resources” for those who want to maximize their potential, Heller says.
And that contributes to the way that the “current generation of filmmakers … don’t see as much of a delineation between games and and TV and media. They realize that there are many, many, ways to tell stories, [and] that a lot of the tools to do it overlap.”
In particular, “virtual production seems to be this nice bridge” to “our true immersive future,” she says. Noting, “We’re already seeing, for instance, the impact of video games on cinema, and again, immersive technologies right there… in the middle of it all.”
For those interested in working in this space, Heller suggests first, “knowing yourself and your interest.” She considers herself to be a generalist, with a breadth of knowledge and the ability to connect the dots on projects.
Do “you want to be someone that knows a little bit of everything, or do you want to be someone that really develops an expertise in this one area?”
“[T]here are people who are experts at lighting for game engines, and there are people who are experts at spatial audio.” And they don’t just work in video game development anymore.
Using Immersive Tech in New Ways
For example, the content from “volumetric capture can also be repurposed a number of different ways,” notes Schwartz.
“Everybody is coming to talk to us about volumetric capture, LED walls, real time game engine technology for their existing IP. How can we how can we leverage it to make our workflows cheaper or faster, better or more effective?” Heller explains.
“And then because those are the same tools that you then use to create virtual and augmented reality experiences, it’s a no brainer to add those components to whatever campaign you’re building.”
A 360 capture, sometimes called a hologram, can be used in “an augmented reality application where we could place her anywhere, you know, on the streets of New York or on my kitchen table,” Heller explains. Alternatively, it can be utilized in “a virtual environment. And maybe if I’m in a VR headset, I’m standing right in front of you and looking at you as if you are standing right in front of me.” Or they might “create a cinematic moment that could be then used in an advertising campaign for TikTok or for Instagram.”
“I’ve been hugely inspired by some of the work that’s come through. I mean, we just had somebody do the first ever volumetric capture TikTok filter, and it was for Bob the Drag Queen, from RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Some observers have expressed concern over immersive tech’s near-term future as some Silicon Valley companies have discontinued or defunded programs. But Heller remains optimistic.
“Despite the shakeups of the last six months in the tech sector, we still see, you know, a tremendous amount of interest in in this space.”
In fact, she says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of new companies popping up, a lot of startups.” Heller predicts, “Some of the forces that have made a commitment to immersive tech” may ultimately be buttressed by “all the new talent that’s out there” and newly available in the marketplace.
She’s bullish because “The desire to see immersive technology come to fruition, truly manifest in a more broad way is powerful. And there are enough players in the game, both big players and also independent creators, that are eager to be a part of that, that when a program goes away, it doesn’t stop the current of the full vision that I think is coming to life.”
And Heller is not the only one. She cites the Producers Guild of America as another group with an eye on this work. Their 34th annual PGA Innovation Awards nominees had a strong showing for her sector. Heller estimates “two thirds of the projects are some form of immersive project.”
Explore Immersive Workflows at NAB Show
Storytech has produced three different tour experiences for this year’s show.
If you want an efficient way to learn about the latest production modalities, purchase the New Production Modalities tour pass and reserve your preferred slot when you register for NAB Show. Heller’s two-hour tours are scheduled Sunday through Tuesday, starting at 10 and 10:30 a.m. (PT).
Heller will also serve as a panelist for the “New Production Modalities – Virtual Reality, Web3 and Beyond” session, moderated by Jess Loren and scheduled for April 17 at 1:30 p.m.
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