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What is Volumetric Capture? How to Capture Volumetric Video

Especially today when everyone is working from home new ways of collaboration are taking shape. Video conferencing software like Zoom and Skype are the main communication tools while Google Drive is exploding with shared documents.

However, many people are looking for a more personal touch. Therefore, you can hear more about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications.

There are plenty of mixed reality entertainment, gaming, education and training apps. However, they all are missing the main thing that we are looking for – real people.

In VR and AR people are represented as avatars which makes the whole experience unfamiliar and awkward.

When we start thinking about business solutions and educational applications it all might sound a bit too far-fetched. Volumetric video capture is a new technology that can overcome this issue.

Courtesy of EF EVE™.
Courtesy of EF EVE™. Live volumetric streaming.

What is Volumetric Capture?

Volumetric capture is a way to record real people in three dimensions for viewing in a virtual or mixed reality headset. It is done by a large rig of cameras placed around the person.

In other words, imagine that you are standing inside a rig of cameras where your body is fully scanned and recorded with all details. Also, it creates the most realistic digital copy of you in seconds. To record and edit the data powerful software is used.

How volumetric Capture works?

David Attenborough volumetric video.
Courtesy of Factory 42 “David Attenborough volumetric video.

In order to capture volumetric video, you need cameras and software. 

Microsoft and Intel have volumetric capture studios with over 100 bespoke cameras mounted on large rigs. The biggest studio to date is Intel Capture which covers 10,000 square feet.

The enormous amount of data it captures takes weeks to process but the end result is stunning. The greatest examples of volumetric video such as Buzz Aldrin “Cycling Pathways to Mars”, David Attenborough “Hold the World” or Paramount Pictures “Grease” were made in these studios.

‘Grease’ at 40: Volumetric Capture at Intel Studios Celebrates Iconic Movie

However, all of it comes at a cost and you need to have pretty deep pockets to afford it. The rent of such a studio would take you back by around $100 000 for a couple of minutes of content.

The first thought which comes to mind is “This is not for me”. What if I would tell you that it is actually possible to build such a studio yourself.

Also Read: What is CGI Technology?

How to Capture Volumetric Video yourself?

Courtesy of EF EVE ™ EF EVE
Courtesy of EF EVE ™ EF EVE ™ volumetric capture with 4 Azure Kinect.

You’re probably still not convinced about the possibility of capturing volumetric video yourself. Luckily there are a couple of companies which are focused on consumer-friendly and affordable setup.

Most of them support only one camera so what you get is just half of what you need. EF EVE ™ volumetric capture recently released a solution which supports up to 4 sensors and automatically calibrates them.

Microsoft Kinect Azure, Kinect Xbox One and Intel Real sense are the off-the-shells cameras you can use. If you would try to put any of these sensors into a rig without the software the end result would be hardly recognisable.

The sensors simply do not match each other and produce separate outputs. That’s where automatic calibration of sensors comes very handy.

Where are these Volumetric videos used?

Intel volumetric video “Western”
Intel volumetric video “Western”

Some of us might still remember how 20 years ago you would go to a photo studio to take family pictures. Now it is hard to imagine that we could live without photos and videos.

If we compare volumetric capture technology to this it is still in the early stages. However, the content produced is so immersive and realistic that it would be silly to think that it won’t be used in the same industries where the video is now. It is an evolution of video. 

There are some great examples of Volumetric video and immersive media. Intel has released a western, Sky TV created a VR series called The Viking Planet: The Ambush.

It shows the power of volumetric video and how it recreates scenes in full 3D.  In VR you can choose your position in a film. It is like choosing from whose perspective you will watch the move today. Every single time it is a new experience.

The applications of volumetric video currently are limitless and before it truly takes off it needs to become portable and affordable.

Therefore, it is great that we can already see companies making steps towards more accessible setups. Who knows maybe in a couple of years’ times we all will be able to put virtual or augmented reality glasses and stand next to our own digital twin? 

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