After several years as an experimental or specialist technology, virtual reality (VR) is now being taken more seriously for mainstream media. US digital intermediate and colour correction developer ASSIMILATE is among the companies targeting this potential market and used the 2016 NAB Show to give the first public demonstrations of its new SCRATCH VR Suite, which includes tools to prepare and deliver 360-degree immersive material.
ASSIMILATE has incorporated tools from its established SCRATCH V8.4 package, which features ACES (Academy Colour Encoding System) log-grading capability, as well as functionality more specific to VR production. The system is designed to be used as part of a complete chain, dealing with dailies, conform, colour management, compositing, finishing and mastering. SCRATCH VR Suite is able to produce final material in a variety of formats and resolutions, with the SCRATCH Web facility enabling footage to be reviewed and worked on by others using the Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR headsets.
SCRATCH VR also offers a control panel for perhaps the best-known VR system, Oculus Rift. This enables users to examine their timelines in the Oculus display as they appear over the image being worked on. With this it is possible to play, stop and shuttle through the timeline without either having to take off the headset or have to work with someone else operating the function controls.
Pan 360 framing gives controls for New Yaw, Pitch and Roll, enabling an equi-rectangular image to be re-orientated. This allows the point-of-interest to be manipulated, ensuring it is in the centre of the frame. Among the specific tasks that can be carried out by this tool are the creation of a pre-defined route in a 360 video and shot stabalisation. There is also the Pan 360 function, which can take equi-rectangular 2D effects nodes and mix in any 2D component to the 360 project.
Other VR features include effects wrapping. During the application of an effect, such as a blur or clarity, the SCRATCH system samples pixels for the opposite face of the image to measure the effect on the left and right sides. In this way a ridge can be prevented from appearing in the middle of the scene.
Commenting on the new suite, Lucas Wilson, VR producer with ASSIMILATE, said, "It's clear that high-quality VR content is really taking off in real-world applications - science, technical and vocational training, education and, of course, entertainment. While the excitement is in the content, it's the behind-the-scenes software and hardware that give filmmakers and content creators the tools to make quality VR happen. Working in a new technology like VR can be complex and the SCRATCH VR Suite simplifies the workflow so that creators can stay focused on the content while maintaining high levels of productivity and quality."
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