Into The Future: Harnessing The Power Of VR For Storytelling
by: James Mathers / DigiMediaPros
Although I’ve written about Virtual Reality previously, it is such a quickly evolving space, that I think it deserves an update. I’ve been researching the latest developments in preparation for SIGGRAPH, coming up later this month. I’ll be moderating a panel there produced by NVIDIA on The Future of Storytelling in VR, and following are some of my recent observations.
There is still a lot of confusion about what exactly VR is. It’s a term that means different things to different people, but can broadly be described as a means of placing the viewer into an environment by surrounding them both visually and aurally. One thing for sure is that it is hard to convey the experience if you haven’t tried it.
The various formats for entering that environment can be via head-mounted display, whether that be an Oculus Rift-type system interfaced with a more powerful computer, or a simple attachment added to your smart phone such as Googles Cardboard. However, resolution needs to increase in order for images to look photo realistic when they are being magnified and viewed only inches from your face.
Even if the master image is 4K, it has to be wrapped around, and stretched to cover the potential field of view, since you are only looking at a small percentage of that overall resolution as you scan around the environment. Seeing pixels is a turn-off that tends to quickly take the viewer out of the virtual environment.
Although VR storytelling can also be experienced in various theatrical viewing environments such as a dome or panoramic screen, for now it seems that headsets are the most practical delivery medium. The world of gaming is currently the most advanced forum, probably due to the fact that game developers already have experience creating interactive immersive environments, and the capabilities for spacial awareness are quite advanced, so that is where we are seeing the most progress.
As evidenced by Paul Walkers appearance in Furious 7, where much of the coverage was created after his untimely death, we already have the ability to create photorealistic human beings in 2D. However, creating that same illusion in VR is a much bigger challenge, especially considering the myriad of moving perspectives that need to be maintained. It takes an enormous amount of computer horsepower, but the good news is that while calculating the interaction of every light ray and every material on an object has been impractical in the past, now GPUs are getting so fast that it will soon be possible to do it interactively in near real time.
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