NAB: Futurist Warns That Virtual Reality Camera Systems Need to Improve

Ted Schilowitz predicted that the systems currently being used to shoot live-action VR "will not be successful in the long term."
Courtesy of Ted Schilowitz
Ted Schilowitz

Consumers may be ready to embrace virtual reality, but the camera systems used for live-action VR are not, futurist Ted Schilowitz warned Wednesday at a technology luncheon at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas.

Schilowitz, who serves as 20th Century Fox's in-house futurist and an adviser to digital cinema technology developer Barco, predicted that the current camera systems used to create live-action VR experiences "will not be successful in the long term."

Most VR scenes are shot with a single camera sitting on a tripod in a fixed position. While the camera can take in a 360-degree view of its surroundings, that does not allow the viewer to wander around in the space, viewing the setting from whatever position he chooses. "It doesn't allow you to move around in the picture," said Schilowitz.

To enable that, Schilowitz said that he is currently working on what is called "volumetric capture," recording a scene in such a way that multiple viewpoints are captured, ensuring that the viewer will be free to move around within the scene.

Light-field technology, like that on display in the new Lytro Cinema light-field camera system, which was unveiled Tuesday at NAB, can enable volumetric capture. The new camera system effectively captures the color, direction and placement of every ray of light. Unlike a convention camera, which only captures color information, it collects depth information, and that, in turn, allows filmmakers to create 3D models of what the camera is seeing.

Schilowitz told delegates that he believes viewers, who are rarely separated from their mobile devices, are ready for VR. "And now I'm wearing [VR goggles] as much as eight hours a day," he said, adding that he also has tested VR with many people and "the joy and glee that we see is different from TV; it's very visceral. It’s a totally new way to look at entertainment. I have got enough feedback from other people to say I feel we are ready for VR. If you are not ready, get ready."

Fox has already been working on VR projects including The Martian VR Experience, which the studio debuted in January at CES.