Virtual production. It’s definitely a whole other world, but you’d be surprised to learn that many of the principles of photography and video are also important in virtual production and VR too. “It’s about using real-time computer graphics in your production,” explains Technical Director from Mo-Sys, James Uren.
James explains that it’s critical for the VR people working on the renders to know the exact location of the camera in the real-life scene. This is because they need to create the VR world from the exact same perspective, or the whole illusion fails. To do this, they track the camera using a tracking system. And that is one of the things that Mo-Sys does, along with producing camera robotics. James spoke to DIYP about their Star Tracker device.
Virtual production is not a new thing, however. It actually goes back to green and blue screen technology. “You give a real-time view of a virtual world,” says James.
“It can also be done in reverse,” says James. So instead of putting real people into a virtual world like you do with green screen, you can also put VR objects into the real world.
So what does the Star Tracker do? To put it plainly, its a tracking system to track where the camera is. The Star Tracker looks up at the studio ceiling where they have small reflective markers in place. A mini camera mounted on top of the main camera can then use those markers to track exactly where the camera is. It’s incredibly accurate, down to the millimetre or tenth of a degree. The tracker can also track the lens position. This information can then be used to re-create the point of view inside the virtual world.
The latest version of the Star Tracker, the Star Tracker Max has launched and is expected by the end of September. The new system is 8 times the resolution of the previous version, and is much lighter and smaller.
“The Star Tracker Mini is like the Max’s baby brother, ” says James. Everything is self-contained inside the box and is designed for smaller productions. “It’s like a gateway drug for virtual production,” James laughs. “We’re hoping that it will be useful for people just wanting to dabble in virtual production, at a price point that makes it accessible” he adds. It will be shipping early in 2023.
If you’re interested in starting out in creating virtual worlds, James suggests trying out the free software Unreal Engine. He says that you can begin with free tracking devices and when you’re ready, transfer to professional tracking systems such as the Mo-Sys star trackers.