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That virtual set was rendered with Vizrt’s Viz
Engine while Idonix provided the content
control interface for Viz Virtual Studio.
At IBC next month you’ll see plenty of
innovation in this area too. From Vizrt’s
Virtual Presenter, an innovation that places
a presenter among the action of a clip, to
ORAD’s ProSet, a high-end virtual studio that
utilizes its Xync infrared tracking system with
360-degrees of free camera movement, and its
new ‘Virtual Studio in a Box’.
Another test has also been done using the
BBC News room.
This research is all focussed on providing an
immersive experience, says Cyrus Saihan, the
head of business development at BBC Future
Media. “Imagine if you could watch a nature
documentary and feel as if you could reach out
and touch the animals, or feel as if you were
on stage with a band during a music festival or
on the pitch during a football match,” he says.
With virtual sets now firmly part of the furniture,
so to speak, VR could be going a step further:
potentially becoming a tool for completely
“The purpose of this trial was to test out the
technology and see if we could make our
users feel as if they were actually there in
person.” Just last month BSkyB spent nearly half a
million dollars on another stake in Jaunt, a
video start-up that is developing hardware and
software for VR devices that can provide an
immersive experience for viewers of films or TV
shows. It is early days, he admits, not least as Oculus
Rift headsets are not yet commercially
available, but there is enthusiasm for VR
“As an innovative content creator, cinematic
VR represents exactly the type of technology
we want to better understand and explore,”
says Stuart Murphy, the director of
entertainment channels at Sky.
It is a strong sign of intent. And with Oculus,
the maker of a VR headset, bought up by
Facebook for $2bn, and Sony’s Project
Morpheus in the pipeline, VR is now big news.
“VR as it exists today is mainly about video
games,” says Jaunt chief executive Jens
Christensen. “We want to broaden the
experience to mainstream entertainment. [We
have] built the technology to put VR in the
hands of the best content creators in the world
to deliver stunning, reach-out-and-touch-it
entertainment experiences using VR goggles.”
Sky is not the only broadcaster looking at VR.
During the Commonwealth Games, BBC
R&D, with the assistance of UCL, put on what
it described as the “most immersive live VR
broadcast to date.”
By combining existing research it showed a
demo in which a panoramic, 360-degree video
camera, and a 3D audio microphone, captured
pictures and sound at the SSE Hydro Stadium
in Glasgow. The live feed was then streamed
to an Oculus Rift VR headset in the Glasgow
Another pioneer of new technology, Atlantic
Productions, certainly thinks so.
Having been an early adopter of HD, 3D, 4k
and more, the indie production company is
now exploring VR with the launch of Alchemy
VR, a new division that will create content for
Oculus Rift and the Sony Morpheus.
Atlantic Productions chief executive Anthony
Geffen describes it as a “natural progression
for us, harnessing the unique and talented
team we have built to create content for a
revolutionary platform that is finally becoming
viable for a consumer audience.”
Sir David Attenborough, a long-time
collaborator, is on board and a mix of
educational, non-fiction storytelling content is
in the offing, using live action, 360 video and
immersive CG. Exciting stuff.
There are obviously many hurdles to overcome
before VR becomes mainstream. And they’re
not all technical ones. Yes there’s the latency,
which can make viewers feel dizzy. And, if you
can see the whole set or studio, you will also
see the crew. Image stitching could solve that.
But there are cultural problems to overcome
too. Very much like watching stereo 3D, using
a VR headset is likely to be a solo activity. And
TV is a mass medium, often watched as a
family or with friends. If glasses-free 3D is the
answer for stereo, then headset free VR may
be equally as important. But, for now, that
brings us back to the realm of science fiction
again. TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 92 AUGUST 2014 | 39