​Blending real and virtual elements on set: part 1

Not so long ago Augmented Reality (AR) was considered a gimmick in studio presentation, but it is now becoming an integral part of many productions. AR elements are becoming part of the workflow, with integration to NRCS systems, triggered by the switcher or controlled by studio automation systems. Continuous improvements in computing technologies and camera tracking method will also contribute to the future growth of AR usage during production. This three part report looks at the challenges in working with real and virtual elements. For part one we turned to the insight of Orad Hi Tec System’s studio and tracking product manager, Haim Halperin.

A key challenge is to ensure that all the elements look natural and an inherent part of the hard set. “From a design point of view it is important to design the AR elements with the hard set in mind,” says Halperin. “From a technology stand point, blending real and virtual elements requires high performance of rendering to render the graphics while the cameras are tracking.

“One of the best approaches to designing with AR in mind is to create elements that look natural, visually appealing and work well with the set’s motif. As AR elements are immersed into the scene they are an excellent tool to captivate the audience.”

When does AR / VR not work?

Halperin: The short answer is when it's not properly planned. “To be effective, accurate tracking is essential,” says Halperin. “Care must be given to the virtual elements to ensure that they are properly placed within the studio, and the elements themselves serve their purpose. It is also essential that the elements are designed in a way that can best used; transparent, realistic, and multi-dimensional and so on. Orad’s experience in the field enables us to ensure that the broadcaster maximizes their use in virtual /augmented reality.

How do you best prepare talent to work with AR?

Halperin: The best way to prepare the talent is to include them in the process itself and to provide them with the capability to rehearse with the elements in the set, ensuring that the talent incorporates the virtual elements are part of the real set. In addition, by being part of the process, the talent can give some suggestions of additional elements, placement of the elements, etc.

How important is lens calibration?

Halperin: Accurate lens calibration is essential for accurate placement of AR elements in the studio. As part of the lens calibration process, it is important to take into account the lens distortion and the lens abrogation for precise placement. The Orad lens calibration process takes into account all those elements for both digital and analog lens, 16x9 and 4x3 aspect ratio, ENG and box lens.

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