With the launch of Apple's new Vision Pro XR Headset there's been a sudden burst of interest in their "ground-breaking" new "spatial video" format. So what is spatial video and why would anyone want it?
Spatial video is simply the term Apple has developed in order to not use the dreaded term "3D Video" as 3D has such a checkered past and sadly a fair amount of negative baggage, whether or not it is entirely justified is much debated amongst interested parties.
So spatial video or film is identical in theory to stereoscopic video or film, it is created by shooting the same scene with two cameras, or a camera with two lenses at the same time. Hence the new iPhone has dual lenses operating as a stereoscopic pair, and the Vision Pro itself has dual head mounted cameras again operating as a stereoscopic pair. In effect identical to the way stereoscopic footage and imagery has been captured for the last century or longer.
In order to view this spatial footage the viewer requires some way to send the appropriate video image to each eye - so left camera footage to left eye, right camera footage to right eye. Historically this has been glasses of some sort, with polarisation or colour filters used to direct just one image to each eye but with Apple's new device, just the same as any other VR headset, it can do this even better as each eye has it's own dedicated display so each eye naturally gets only one image from the pair.
Of course the fact that these are pretty much industry leading displays offering amazing resolution and clarity does mean that this device will present 3D Spatial films in one of the best ways possible, probably unlike any 3D you've seen before. And the extra magic that Apple brings here is the clever technique in the headset of softening the edge and placing the footage behind a window which you can "look around into", effectively it appears to fool the brain into a more immersive and realistic feeling for the 3d effect - no doubt this effect will start appearing in other stereoscopic video playback apps in the near future.
So what does this mean for 3D films and their production which have (once again) over the last decade waned into insignificance? Well that's the interesting question - can Apple revive the spectre of 3D once more and can it do so for longer than previous incantations? It's a question I'm excited to know the answer to, as a 3D filmmaker and evangelist for the last 10+ years it's always exciting when a new possibility opens up for stereoscopic media.
There's one final question of course - as Apple has now gained access to previously unseen 3D films from the Disney vaults will they ONLY be available to this somewhat pricy headset? If I were Apple, and who's to say they aren't already doing this, I would buy a company like Looking Glass Factory or Leia and roll their technology into the first iHolo TV Displays... yup that';s for sure how things should go. Apple could revolutionise not just XR Headsets but also become the standard for holographic display technology all based off the same standard stereoscopic footage.
If you want to know more or have any 3D/spatial video requirements do get in touch. Here at Deep Vision Studios we have over a decade's worth of experience of stereoscopic production with extensive professional stereoscopic software and hardware at our fingertips, and our US based AIPOP-3D operation is one of the leading experts in cost effective 2D to 3D stereoscopic conversion of existing footage for occasions where you cannot shoot natively or replace existing footage.
So whatever your "spatial" need, we've got you covered. Do get in touch.
Andrew Murchie is a creative technology consultant based in Edinburgh, Scotland specialising in virtual reality films & 3D. Over the last 5+ years he has produced Virtual Reality films & experiences for clients including NHS, Kimberly-Clark, The UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Highland Spring, Seafood in Scotland, Pict Offshore and Tennent Caledonian Breweries.