Virtual Reality, High Dynamic Range Explored At Con-Tech Conference

"Virtual reality is a medium that will allow us to do something really special. We can't just give [viewers] more of the same," said Warners' Greg Gewickey.
Courtesy of Nokia Technologies
The Nokia OZO virtual reality camera was among the technical developments honored during the event.

What type of content will it take to move the needle in the emerging area of virtual reality? For one thing, it won’t be genre specific, agreed panelists at Wednesday’s Con-Tech seminar on high dynamic range and virtual reality, produced by the Advanced Imaging Society on the Paramount lot.

The speakers rattled off the areas widely considered the low-hanging fruit, notably games. Horror, concerts and others were also cited.

But Greg Gewickey, vp of digital distribution technologies at Warner Bros. emphasized that the real killer app for viewing in this 360-degree immersive environment has to be something different. “We can go to the Moon and explore Mars,” he said. “It is a medium that will allow us to do something really special. We can't just give [viewers] more of the same.”

Phil "Captain 3D" McNally agreed, noting "VR is an active participation viewing experience. We are trying to make something for a new audience. That problem leads us to short form [at least for now]."

Added Jeffrey Greller, VR agent at WME: "We need to get to a point where there's a compelling story to get people to talk about it."

It's of course very early in this stage of a VR rollout and there's a chicken-and-egg scenerio between available content and a quantifiable audience. A very limited audience has seen VR so far. Most who have, experienced it using a mobile phone and either the inexpensive Google Cardboard viewing system or an early version of Samsung VR Gear. Last week, a more accessible $99 version of the Samsung system was announced, with availability planned in time for Black Friday. Other anticipated VR headsets including Oculus Rift and those from Sony and HTC are expected to reach retailers in early 2016.

Roy Taylor, vp of alliances for manufacturer AMD reported that AMD plans to open a Los Angeles office that will, in part, focus on developing technology to enable VR. "It's a transformative medium," he said. "The future is very exciting."

High dynamic range--a wider range between the blackest blacks and whitest whites in an image--is viewed as something that could improve VR images. But right now, HDR is a big focus in TV and motion picture circles. This was another topic at the seminar.

Dolby aims to have as many as 50 Sony and Warner Bros. titles remastered in Dolby Vision—the company’s high dynamic range format—by the end of the year, for availability on Vudu, for display on Dolby Vision-supported televisions when available, related Dolby director of content development Bill Villarreal. He added that about 30 titles have been completed to date including The Lego Movie and Man of Steel.

Also during the event, AIS hosted a luncheon during which it presented it’s Lumiere statuettes for technical achievement, which included developments in stereoscopic 3D, HDR and VR.

Technology Award honorees include AMD, for Liquid VR; Barco, for Barco Escape; Jaunt, for the Jaunt One VR camera; Lucid VR, 180-degree stereoscopic 3D camera for VR; MasterImage 3D, Horizon3D; Nokia, OZO VR camera; Onsight ,360-degree live action capture system; Prime Focus World, DeepGen; Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation VR; Stream TV Networks, Ultra-D glasses free 3D technology; SuperD, 3D Box; and Technicolor, Intelligent Tone Management HDR software. Legend 3D won a pair of trophies, for its 2D to 3D conversion process for VR and its real time depth grade process.

New product awards were presented to Global 3D Media, for its EXD autostereo 3D screen series; and NCAM, for its camera tracking system.

“This year’s honorees reflected the changing nature of media and entertainment,” said Society awards chair, Buzz Hays, founder of True Image Company.

In related news, The Virtual Reality Company (VRC), in conjunction with Steel Wool Entertainment, confirmed on Wednesday that it was launching a venue dedicated to capturing live music performances for distribution in virtual reality at Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles. VRC co-founder and two-time Academy Award winner Robert Stromberg (production designer on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, and director of Maleficent) is designing the venue. Stromberg is also currently working on a 15-minute VR experience based on The Martian for Fox.

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