Hulu VR Series Shot with Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera

Toronto-based production house CreamVR used four Micro Studio Camera 4Ks to shoot the virtual reality (VR) series “A Curious Mind with Dominic Monaghan,” now available on Hulu VR.

The Hulu and Microsoft co-production takes viewers along on a immersive scientific exploration of our universe with the host. Viewers join Monaghan as he travels into outer space and other unreachable places to deconstruct mind-bending scientific and philosophical questions, such as the concept of the Earth as one living super organism.

CreamVR is Toronto-based Cream Productions’ virtual reality lab. Established in 2015, CreamVR has become a leader in virtual reality production by creating engaging content, proprietary camera systems and making technical advances that push the boundaries of immersive storytelling. Cream VR produces for all platforms including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, among others.

CreamVR Creative Director and Director of Photography Andrew MacDonald explained why the Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K was the best option for the production. “We needed cameras that were physically small enough to place side by side, while sitting no farther apart from each other than a set of human eyes, and also capable of capturing 4K. If you’re shooting in stereo and the cameras are farther than about 72mm apart, the whole world begins to look miniature and the viewer has the illusion of being a giant. We obviously need to avoid this kind of disconnect when trying to simulate environments that engage audiences in a way that traditional television can’t.”

Tristan Cezair, CreamVR Creative Director and VFX Supervisor, also notes the advantages of using a Micro Studio Camera 4K-based solution. “We used two identical camera rigs mounted on top of each other, each with two Micro Studio Camera 4Ks side by side. The lower rig focused on Monaghan, while the upper rig used a wider set of lenses to capture more of the tracking markers in the green screen studio that he stood in. This helped the team track the cameras’ movements in post production. Ensuring the CGI environment moves at the same tracking speed as the cameras allows for a perfect composite and smooth parallax which is critical for comfortably watching within a VR headset. This dual rig setup was critical in creating a satisfying, sometimes reality-bending experience that lets viewers become completely immersed in the content as active participants instead of a traditional passive role.“

Being able to genlock the cameras made a world of difference during production and post production. Using the Blackmagic Design Mini Converter Sync Generator, MacDonald synced all four cameras with each other so that they shot the exact same thing at the exact same time, ultimately ensuring viewer comfort. The ability to genlock the cameras helped the team reduce the risk of “bends,” which can result from untimed rolling shutters. For 360-degree VR applications, “bending” caused by differences between cameras’ rolling shutters that would expose different parts of the image at different times can be an issue. It creates significant post production challenges because it becomes impossible to blend the 3D the footage together evenly which can derail the whole immersive experience for viewers.

CreamVR will be relying once again on the Micro Studio Camera 4K to develop a groundbreaking new workflow that will offer creatives an accelerated hybrid way of creating a game avatar by shooting it on video and then projecting it on a 3D computer model. This will significantly reduce the time and cost associated with developing these digital models for games, simulations and more.

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