Just Business : Inspiration from Hollywood

NOTE TO OUR FAITHFUL READERS:
This post will be a departure from our irregularly scheduled technical, design, and development musings. Today, we are focusing on that elusive topic called business. Enjoy.

Back in the day, my boys and I were on the high-school wrestling squad. We actually competed at a fairly high level, Varsity won state that year. And at least once a month, the night before match, we’d gather in front of the TV, and watch our deepest wrestling inspiration: VisionQuest. The scene with Matthew Modine beasting up the peg wall then running up and down the stadium bleachers are etched into my brain for life. I can still recall them when I need that last little boost for triathlons.

So now we get to the topic at hand, business. Who’d have thought, there are movies that inspire there too. And here they are. Watch and learn.

color-of-money-movie

5. the Color of Money

Official-poster-for-Wall-Street-1987

 

4. Wall Street

“Greed is Good.” Watch the speech. Again. and Again. That is all.

 

 

blood-diamond-movie

3. Blood Diamond
“What’s the business in this one?” you ask. Quite simply: Hustle. If you need the abbreviated lesson, just skip to the scene where DiCaprio barters the weapons for the diamonds…

The-Social-Network-movie-poster-David Fincher

 

2. The Social Network

The youngest, richest, most successful entrepreneur of the 21st century deserves a decent treatment… and this one is genius.

 

 

JOBS-movie-poster

 

1. Jobs

Steve Jobs captained Apple from a “has been” into the most profitable, most valuable company in the world. There are lessons here. We shall say no more.

 

 

 

 

Further Inspiration & Investigations…

This list is the companion piece to “Required Reading for VR.”
Your choice. Reading or viewing. Programming, either way.

…did I mention the Matrix?

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

 

Capturing Virtual Worlds to Virtual Cinema : How To

We’ve just read once, twice, three times this most excellent tutorial / thought piece by D Coetzee, entitled “Capturing Virtual Worlds: A Method for Taking 360 Virtual Photos and Videos“.

The article gets into the dirty details of how we might transform a high-powered, highly interactive VR experience into a compact* file sharable with all our friends on a multitude of platforms (cardboard, mergeVR, oculus, webVR, etc)

Having spent a great deal of time figuring out these strategies ourselves, its good to see someone articulate the challenge, the process, and future development paths so well.

360 3d panorama thin strip stitching

Most accessible present-day solution: a script that renders thin vertical strips with a rotating stereo camera array, then stitches into the final panorama

Enjoy.

  • the term “compact” is used here liberally. A typical 5 minute VR experience might weigh in at 500MB for the download. Transforming this into a 120MB movie might be considered lightweight… for VR. Time to beef up your data plans, kiddies. And developers, say it with me now : algorithmic content :)

 

Short-Form, Low-Poly: Necessity as the Mother of Invention

In testing our apps with the general public, one thing has become abundantly clear: the bar for VR content is high. Extremely high, in fact.

Modern audiences have been primed for VR by two mainstream media: Hollywood Special FX blockbusters, and AAA videogames for consoles. Think the special effects from Avatar, or the Lord of the Rings, and Ex Machina; totally synthetic, computer-generated characters that are also totally believable… in fact, indistinguishable from human actors, apart from their extreme biological forms.

L to R Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoë Saldana).

Avatar by James Cameron  : Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoë Saldana).

On the videogame front, we have massive 40+ hour experiences with photorealistic graphics, huge free-to-explore environments; think Gears of War, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

These high expectations are compounded by the fact that the essence of the VR experience encourages close inspection of elements. In other words, people just love to lean in and closely examine textures and objects. This means that all the graphical and modelling shortcuts used for far away objects are now null. We must model for close-ups.

First, lets look at some basic economics of content: 

  • MOVIES
  • a movie ticket costs $10, for 2 hours of play
  • a major hollywood movie costs about $200 million to make and market
  • there are more than 1 billion people who watch movies worldwide
  • a DVD player costs $30.
  • VIDEOGAMES
  • a videogame costs $50, for 40 hours of play
  • a major AAA videogame costs about $30 million to make and market
  • there are more than 300 million videogame consoles worldwide
  • a videogame console costs $300.

Now, for comparison, lets look at

  • VR in 2015
  • A premium VR experience retails for $3 to $12, for 5-20 minutes of play
  • A premium 5-minute VR experience takes about $1 million to create
  • There are currently less than 2 million VR viewers in the hands of consumers globally.
  • an entry level consumer VR rig costs $1,500.

Realistically, most of the VR content being created today is by either small motivated teams of 1-3 people, or by divisions of larger Special Effects firms who are dipping their toes into the new media. The videogame companies will be coming in strong soon. Hello EA, Blizzard, Epic.

To cut to the chase: consumers expect photorealism, yet there is no way to justify photo-realistic production budgets when the existing audience is effectively non-existent.

The solution : short-form, low-poly

The solution, as with most, relies on elegance, not brute force. Extremely low poly models, which perform well on almost any platform, and short-form content, i.e. playtimes less than 5 minutes, are the sweet spot that make modern VR production possible… perhaps even profitable.

Examples of doing low-poly right:

1. Darknet

2. See our earlier post on Synthesis Universe.

and…

4a06187d1673fee5ff8dc3776b16644f407486446_640desert_paradise_hd1 lowpoly-hifihome_cover_20150401224417meteora_kl_by_conzitool-d7850ck

low_poly_kl_by_conzitool-d76fmw9

Cinema meets Videogames : Strange bedfellows, or Match made in Heaven?

We’re fresh back from the epic Digital Hollywood conference / rolling party in LA, and chock full of ideas of how to integrate classic cinema techniques with our native videogame tropes.

See, 80+% of the participants at the conference were from traditional media backgrounds — music, TV, film. And while VR was absolutely the hot topic of the show — as it was for CES, GDC, and NAB — there was as much confusion as there was excitement about the commercial and artistic promise of this brand spanking new medium.

One of the key findings on our part was a genuine need to integrate cinema techniques, aka linearity, composition, color and storytelling —  into our hyper-interactive realm of videogame design. Thus began our investigations. What exactly does it take to make full, HD, 3D, 360 captures of real-world environments?

We’ll get into more details later, but for now I want to spell it out, if only for technical humor: It takes a:

  • 12-camera
  • 4k
  • 360°
  • 3D stereoscopic
  • live capture stream
  • …stitched to form an:
  • equirectangular projection
  • over / under
  • 1440p
  • panoramic video

Say that 12 times fast. Oh, and be ready for handling the approximately 200GB / minute data stream that these rigs generate. Thank god for GPUs.

What does that look like in practice?
Like this:

A still frame from a 360 stereoscopic over/under video. Playback software feeds a warped portion of each image to each of the viewers eyes.

A still frame from a 360 stereoscopic over/under video. Playback software feeds a warped portion of each image to each of the viewers eyes.

And how do you capture it? With something like this:

360Hero GoPro stereo 360 rig

12 camera GoPro 360Hero rig

Or, if you’re really high-budget, this:

Red Dragon 6k 360 3D stereoscopic capture rig by NextVR_Rig1

array of 10 Red digital cinema cameras (photo not showing top and bottom cam pairs)

Though personally, we really prefer the sci-fi aesthetic:

jaunt-sci-fi-rig-header

an early 3d 360 capture prototype by JauntVR

Then there’s the original 360 aerial drone capture device, circa 1980

Empire Viper Droid, Empire Strikes Back, c. 1980, LucasArts

Empire Viper Droid, Empire Strikes Back, c. 1980, LucasArts

Then, the ever-so-slightly more sinister, and agile version, circa 1999…

Sentinel Drone, The Matrix, 1999, via the Wachowski brothers

Sentinel Drone, The Matrix, 1999, via the Wachowski brothers

What do you think? Is the realism of live capture worth the trouble? Would you prefer “passive” VR experiences that transport you to hard-to-get-to real world places and events, “interactive” experiences more akin to xBox and PlayStation games, or some combination of the two?

Join the conversation below: