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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Murchie

Deep Vision - Year Zero

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

One year ago, at the end of 2019, I left a full time management job in Multiply, the agency I co-founded in 2003, in order to focus purely on creative technologies and the associated areas that interested me.

With the growth in acceptance of VR and the evolving AR, 3d and holographic technologies I felt 2020 would be an ideal time to focus my energies on the virtual world and to launch a new venture focussed on these and so came Deep Vision Studios.

2020 certainly became the year that virtual technologies took centre stage - but not for the reason's I'd hoped, nor the specific technologies I'd planned on. It turned out to be quite a year!

The enforced downtime in early 2020 did however give me the freedom to both study and experiment.

VR Training

From April through to August I undertook the 5 course based Virtual Reality Specialism on Coursera from The University of London. This covered a wide range of academic and practical Virtual Reality topics requiring a fair bit of programming in Unity, something that I'd not done for many years. If you're interested in the course I covered this in some detail elsewhere in the blog.

Stock Footage

A quiet 2020 equally provided the opportunity to experiment further with slow-motion filming and this provided the basis for my first collection of VJ Loops (Klido - Summer Berry Blasts) which are available from a number of online stock footage providers including Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and Pond5. This developed into a set of half a dozen "collections" using similar techniques in a wide range of colours.

This also gave me the impetus to shoot additional stock footage including a range based on vinyl records (The Vinyl Countdown) and another this time featuring greenscreen characters using VR headsets.

2020 Projects

Never the less, over the year I've still had the opportunity to be involved in a range of interesting and sometimes challenging projects.

Glasses Free 3D Content

2020 commenced with me continuing work on a stereoscopic 3D film project created for Mactaggart & Mickel a housebuilding company based in Glasgow. They are one, of a small number of businesses, that have engaged with *Glasses-free 3D screens, in their case an 85" Ultra-D screen which they have in their reception area. Having previously produced 3D content for this screen I was engaged to develop a short film that celebrated their 95th Anniversary taking a look at their historic past through to the current day. Primarily featuring animated content, with a little natively shot 3d footage, the film aimed to use the depth of the screen to best effect including some additional masking tricks to extend the perceived out-of-screen effects.

* Typically glasses-free, also often known as naked eye 3D or autostereoscopic, screens feature a parallax barrier lenticular screen overlay that directs one of the 3d views to each eye. However this tends to limit the viewing angles to very tight sweet spots in order to properly preceive the 3d effect. The modern higher resolution screens allow multiple views to be generated on the fly which extends the number of sweet spots.

Contextual Virtual Reality

One of the interesting features of being involved with emerging technologies is that you can be somewhat surprised by the commercial take-up and the possible solutions that technology can provide. And this was very much the case in a project I undertook for a renewable energy firm. I cannot go into great detail as of yet, however it was fascinating considering the possible impact that Virtual Reality might deliver.

Without then going into specifics, this particular energy provider had planning permission refused on the grounds of visual impact of having turbines on their land. Interestingly photographic mock ups had been created that aimed to show the turbines in-situ in order to demonstrate how they would look. However from an initial examination of the mock-ups it was obvious they didn't tell the full story. A printed-out photograph mounted on a board, even when shot with an appropriate 50mm lens, just doesn't accurately depict the experience of looking at the entire panoramic view and therefor doesn't accurately depict what a member of the public might experience from that particular vantage point, at that particular location.

A mix of judicious cropping, and focussing the photography purely on the impacted landscape presents a limited argument as to visual impact of turbines on any landscape. For example one location I shot, from the exact same position as the cropped photograph depicts a completely different visual scenario. The original shot looks like an area dominated by natural surroundings - the sea and distant hills give the impression of near untouched countryside. Open the vision to 360 degrees and suddenly you're standing at the side of a main road with an old stone building that appears to be barely standing, panelled in sections with corrugated metal sheets surrounded by dumped broken wooden palettes, large oil cans and old tyres - it's simply not the same idyllic vision of nature.

So by reproducing the mock-ups using virtual reality we can allow the viewer to stand on the spot and examine the proposed turbines more accurately in the context of the entire surroundings. This isn't a limited view such that all you see is the turbines, rather a 360 representation at scale (when viewed through an appropriate headset) of reality. This presents a much more realistic vision of the proposed development.

Be The Star that you AR - GANGSTARS The Augmented Reality Photobooth System

Mid-year a couple of friends and I started developing an Augmented Reality Photobooth type system following some conversations with kiosk providers which provided an interesting distraction from the ongoing lockdown.

The aim for this system was to allow users to select from a number of onscreen characters to pose with them in a "selfie". Imagine for example a football team offering fans the opportunity to have their picture taken with 5 of their favourites from the team - so select 5 from the 11 to choose from. Simply click who you want and they walk into shot standing right next to you, pose and boom-flash-bang the shot is ready to send to your email/post to social media.

Our demonstration app for this technology ran on an android kiosk and was loosely horror themed featuring 8 unique characters all desperate to get in on the action for your Halloween selfie. Shot on our inhouse greenscreen facility and programmed in Unity this technology is available for customisation upon request. Find out more here - GANGSTARS AR Photosystems.

Ghostbusting Livestream

One area I hadn't initially considered getting commercially involved in was livestreaming. I didn't initially consider getting involved as on the low end this was typically being undertaken by in-house IT and appeared to be mostly focussed on getting Zoom sessions working, or at the higher end for events and conferences which was more akin to large live outside broadcast requirements and required substantial hardware/software/personnel.

However when the opportunity arose to work with Multiply and The Real Mary Kings Close it was an interesting conundrum to investigate and provide a mid-level solution that could be delivered to a reasonable budget, yet to the standards that would be expected by a paying audience. Following researching our options and considering risk factors involved I developed a really good middle ground that would deliver a premium user experience but could be delivered without the overheads of a large production team.

The livestream was very well received and as I've blogged about this on a number of occasions I won't post more here.

Closing The Year

Although confined to DVS HQ for most of the year, 2020 has fortunately not proved to be too much of a disaster for Deep Vision's launch after all. It's provided a range of interesting and fulfilling projects as well as several opportunities to experiment and extend my knowledge so all I can hope is that 2012 continues in a positive manner and I get even more opportunities to create interesting and engaging content for clients wide and far.

It should be noted as a filmmaker with 25+ years involved in film and digital technologies I still undertake some traditional film projects - I don't tend to blog on these as there is more than enough information on traditional filmmaking in the public domain.

Deep Vision Studios wishes you a very happy holiday season and an even happier Hogmanay.

Andrew Murchie is a filmmaker and creative technologist based in Edinburgh, Scotland specialising in virtual reality, augmented reality, stereoscopic 3d and a range of more traditional digital filmmaking skills. He has produced Virtual Reality films, livestreams & Augmented Reality experiences for clients including The Real Mary King's Close, Dynamic Earth & Social Enterprise UK.

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