Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

Cloud Computing and VR Film Making

I have previously posted about the prospects and challenges of virtual reality (VR) and film making (link below) and had a few recent thoughts on that subject. VR is a technology that is finally reaching a practical consumer level where you wear a display device over your eyes that enables you to turn your head and look around in what is being presented to you. This has numerous digital applications such as being able to walk through a new building and observe it as what it will be in reality after construction. This allows someone to experience and evaluate how the building will accommodate people and modify the plan before construction begins.

Cloud computing provides the opportunity for quickly provisioning vast compute power when you need it and spinning it down when you do not need it. You no longer need to plan for acquiring servers, finding space for them, paying for power and cooling and then the continuous administration costs whether or not you are using them. If you need a thousand computers for the next hour then get them and terminate them when you are done paying only for your use.

Architecture and similar applications have been the traditional use for VR but I think that entertainment will be a significant opportunity for it at the consumer level. Imaging being able to experience a movie where you are able to look around the entire scene rather than what was recorded directly in front of the camera. The scene becomes the entire room where the storyline is.

This significantly complicates film making in a variety of ways including that the script or story will have to be much richer and have to describe many additional elements in the scene. Camera technology has also evolved to include things such as spherical cameras where a 360 degree view is recorded by one or multiple cameras. The implication on the filming process is that neither director nor crew can be visible to the camera(s) or they have to be digitally removed in real time or in post processing. This is where cloud computing may enter in the picture in that the on demand availability of vast computing power supports the digital removal process. This enables the director and camera operator to potentially see what any viewer would see as the film is being made.

Without digital removal the impact on the director is that the scene cannot contain anything not intended to be a part of the film. This also impacts the audio in that sound booms or unconcealed microphones cannot be used.

Another computing advantage might be that the camera is traditional and records only what is in front of it and compute power fills in the rest of the 360 degree view with a hyper realistic scene. This might be possible in real time while viewing the movie or it might done in post processing.

The fascinating possibility presented by VR film making is that the viewer can experience a different movie or story with each viewing by just looking around during the film. Multiple viewers might also have different experiences at the same time. If digital scene generation were being used then imagine seeing a different Blade Runner (my favorite) every time you watch it because you look around during the story.

Another clear result of this sort of technology is that experiencing film entertainment moves even more strongly into the home and away from traditional theaters. Being able to sit at home and be completely immersed in your movie would be fascinating. It might also have the unfortunate affect of making people more socially isolated because of the near reality (if not better than) experience. All of this is facilitated by compute power availability.

I wonder what $20 of immense compute power could produce in terms of a unique VR experience in real time?

One of my previous posts on this subject can be found at http://blog.dougtoppin.name/blog/2015/01/28/virtual-reality-and-film-making/

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