DaVinci Resolve Studio Used by Beyond Productions for “MythBusters” Virtual Reality Experiences

Beyond Productions in Sydney, Australia is using DaVinci Resolve Studio by Blackmagic Design to support its post production workflow for new virtual reality (VR) content for Discovery Channel’s television show, MythBusters.

Mythbusters on Discovery Networks

Mythbusters on Discovery Networks

Beyond is delivering VR experiences to accompany new VR episodes throughout the rest of the season, including effects like mail truck explosions, a zombie attack and a rocket launch. The VR content is available via Discovery’s VR smartphone apps for iOS and Android, as well as on a new dedicated Discovery VR website.

“We had been doing our own research into VR and found that Discovery was also doing their own R&D, and they were keen to get content,” said Anthony Toy, director of post production at Beyond. So the company got its feet wet in VR, with filming beginning last May.

In figuring out how to master VR post, Michael Graham, the show’s senior online editor, suggested the company try Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio.

“Resolve being resolution independent was a must as the frame size of the final stitched image does not conform to any conventional formats such as HD, 2K, 4K, UHD,” said Graham. “To have the flexibility to work in the native resolution of the stitched image meant no blanking was introduced to the final output, which would affect the way the image wraps around to create the VR 360 degree image.”

“The first thing we filmed was underwater shark footage,” said Ambar Sidhwani, junior editor and virtual reality editor at MythBusters. “But regardless of where we shoot the footage, we either use a six or seven camera rig, shoot static or point of view (POV), 360 by 180 degrees field of view, 4:3 aspect ratio and at 80 fps, which helps us sync the footage later in post.”

Once the footage is brought into post, it’s run through stitching software for syncing, calibration, stabilization and exposure compensation.

“It’s like putting a puzzle together of which camera angle goes where to make a canvas,” Toy said. “The end result is 4096 x 2048 MP4 file, 4K, 2:1 aspect ratio, 80 fps. High resolution and high frame rate are very important for VR, and we found that many post systems couldn’t handle resolution or did weird things to the frame rate.” That’s where DaVinci Resolve Studio came in.

Sidhwani added that Resolve’s biggest advantage is that it deals with aspect ratio and frame rate natively. “There is no encoding files to other files with different frame rates,” he said. “80 fps is great up to delivery, but the final platforms, such as phones, won’t play 80p materials, so the final file is delivered in 30p. Resolve does frame to frame conversions and makes files longer, so the motions in the footage are smooth at the end of that conversion process.”

This is essential in the virtual world, as people can get sick from sudden jerks, Sidhwani said. “The smooth motion helps make the VR experience more immersive and does not make people motion sick, which is key to the experience.”

DaVinci Resolve Studio is also used to grade the footage on a computer monitor. “We don’t get video output at that resolution because it’s not a broadcast standard, so we grade on a computer monitor,” Toy said. “The included scopes in Resolve are great and very helpful in keeping us within the guidelines,” he said.

The stitching software balances across all the cameras to allow for a smoother stitch, and it tries to retain as much detail as possible, sometimes resulting in a flat looking image. However, the Beyond team wants a vibrant, punchy and strong look as the final platforms for the images are VR rigs or smartphone screens.

“The flat image pops up a few hurdles that the tools and power of Resolve help to overcome,” said Graham. “The original footage is from a compressed eight-bit source so adding saturation and contrast to the image really brings out the compression artifacts and banding. A combination of working in a 32-bit environment in Resolve, the de-noise filter and other elements of the software allow us to push the image a lot further and really work it to achieve the look we are after without having the image looking too processed.

“A tool we use not only on VR, but also on our other programs to help us achieve great results is the array of curves in Resolve. It’s a very powerful tool allowing amazing freedom to create and manipulate the images with such ease and allowing us to make an even and vibrant look in the VR world we are manipulating,” Graham said.

“For VR, we use Resolve not only as a grading tool but as our complete finishing tool,” he added. “The new tools and timeline in Resolve allow us to edit, grade, bring in VFX and other elements to add and enhance the VR experience all within a resolution independent 32-bit in environment.”

DaVinci Resolve Studio Controller

DaVinci Resolve Studio Controller

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