By Jenna Lynn

What possibilities exist in the applications of Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the future of interactive dynamics expand?  NAB sought to introduce, educate and demonstrate this trajectory throughout the duration of the conference.

NAB is widely touted as the largest broadcast convention held worldwide, with Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as the reigning convention father to all forms of electronics, digital equipment and applications.  NAB defines themselves as:

“The result of these once distinct fields of media, entertainment and technology are converging and becoming something far greater than the sum of their parts. That’s The M.E.T. Effect℠ — and it’s redesigning the very nature of how we live, work and play.”

A full program of VR/AI panels and floor discussions weaved the displays of varied equipment, gaming and content arrays into one production workflow.  NAB highlighted this emerging industry by gathering experts on all production facets to explore and incite attendees with knowledge, application and content.  VR education panels ran full days of discussions on the application, production, utilization and workflow of VR/AI.  The panels on the convention floor ran continuously, while content developers held routine, smaller demonstrations and discussions on camera, equipment and software options.

While giants such as Google and Digital Domain made a splash with varied experiential content, Z Cam and Assimilate boasted a new integrated workflow system for content acquisition, post production, streaming and Facebook 360.  Assimilate is the first 360 software system to integrate workflow from content production to content providers, capably supporting sophisticated color correction and camera stitching.

“Ease-of-use and affordability are now factors in the VR equation, which will drive the growth of VR productions, making VR/360 content a ubiquitous way to experience the world,” said Jeff Edson, CEO of Assimilate.  Assimilate works with other camera systems as well.

“The S1 has a lot of advantages over other camera systems,” Z Cam CEO Kinson Loo explains. “We use four Sony sensors, but only a single PCB. As a result, we can get perfect synchronization between the cameras, which is virtually impossible when you connect a number of GoPro cameras together.”  Of note, the heat generated between camera units on a 360 array often presents a performance issue.

The camera is capable of outputting 4K at 60 frames per second or — more relevant to filmmakers — 6K at 30 frames per second.  “It’s not really about resolution, however,” says Loo. “Image quality is far more important than the number of pixels a camera delivers. That is where our camera really shines. We talked to VR studios and content creators and all of them are looking for a better VR camera.

Another professional grade camera option, Jaunt, “provides an end-to-end solution for creating cinematic VR experiences.  Jaunt developed an integrated suite of hardware and software tools to produce the highest quality immersive content.  The first professional grade stereographic cinematic VR camera built from the ground up, the Jaunt ONE was designed with visionary VR creators in mind. Following more than two years of intensive research and development, Jaunt’s camera features custom optics, high quality 360-degree capture, and stunning design.”

VR mount and product specialist Radiant  Images was on hand at most of of the camera displays, featuring “the latest virtual reality solutions -highlighted by new AXA and Sense 9 camera systems.  The Sense 9 was built for cinematic cameras and the AXA can easily accommodate them as well, which means professional camera crews will for the first time be able to create VR/AR/360 content using the motion picture cameras they are most familiar with and comfortable using,” said Nina Page, Business Developer for Radiant Images.

It seemed that most VR content providers “feature all of the most popular Head Mounted Displays (HDMs), such as Vive, Daydream and Oculus Rift, as equal opportunity experiences,” laughed Avery Wheless, writer for Digital Domain.  On hand for viewing at Digital Domain were her 360 short experiences, including a tornado invasion, and a surf excursion in Tahiti, both above and under the water.
G’Audio displayed Works, a freeware 3D sound utility (AAX plugin format for Mac OS only) for processing audio material that will be used in VR and 360° video.
With regard to holograms, the discussion is whether this medium could be summarized as a cousin of the VR world.  While hologram products were not fully represented on display at NAB, London based Kino.mo proudly, if not subtly, demonstrated a “Minority Report”-like high tech smart visual technology, buried deep by itself, on the main convention floor.   Kino.mo has the capability to project out of cell phones or cameras, depending upon application choice.
All in all, the interest and representation for VR/AI content is coming to fruition, both inside and outside the headset.  It appears the market is headed for larger applications, broader production and product development in what may feel like a slow, but steady climb for consumer demand content.