Future of augmented reality and real-time visual effects

In broadcasting, it is typically referred to as virtual graphics and virtual sets, but generically it’s still augmented reality (AR). A piece of magic required to complete this and any other AR illusion is keeping the 3D graphic pinned to a position in the real world so it looks like it’s actually there. That’s where a six-year-old British company called Ncam excels. Ncam provides an AR camera-tracking solution that uses computer vision techniques to work out where the camera is in 3D space, where the 3D studio graphics should be and, importantly, what view of the 3D studio graphics needs to be shown for the illusion to work.

But it’s in the world of visual effects for film and TV production that the combination of Ncam’s AR camera tracking and games engine rendering is providing not new technology, but new workflows to drive production efficiency. The consumption of visual effects-laden films and TV has grown exponentially over the last ten years, but visual effects content takes a great deal longer to create and it’s this throughput challenge that Ncam is helping to address.

AR presents some truly exciting opportunities for enterprises and manufactures radically to enhance the way they educate, train, market, sell, and visualise their products and services

Ncam’s solution can do something quite innovative. Instead of just seeing real-life actors against a blue or green screen via an on-set camera monitor, Ncam’s solution gives directors, cinematographers, and the cast and crew the ability to preview what the complete visual effects shot looks like. Fewer mistakes are made, less post production is required, thus speeding up visual effects productions. This is a clever solution to a global problem and, while the technology currently provides on-set preview, in the near future it will allow for on-set, real-time visual effects.

Ncam’s unique solution has been utilised on a number of notable productions: Aquaman (Warner Bros), Fantastic Beasts 2 (Warner Bros), Beauty and the Beast (Disney), The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Studios), UEFA Champions League (BT Sport), NFC Championship Game (Fox Sports), Monday Night Football (ESPN), The Super Bowl XLVIII (Fox Sports) and The Open Championship (Sky Sports).

A large growth sector for Ncam’s camera-tracking solution may well lie outside of the entertainment sector. Already major car brands use Ncam technology to map photo-realistic 3D models of cars on top of the same real car at live launch events. This enables the manufacturer to show 3D cutaways of the car, while maintaining the illusion that everything viewers see in the monitors is real.

Realism is a crucial part of AR, determined by the detail and resolution of the real-time virtual graphics and the quality of camera tracking used to lock graphics into the real world. Nonetheless, the level of realism still isn’t sufficient to be completely believable. What’s missing are the lighting effects on the virtual graphics, the reflections and shadows created by real-world lighting on the virtual object and how this lighting changes as the virtual object moves. There’s also the need for people or real objects to be able to move around the virtual object to create the illusion that both are in the same 3D space. Ncam provides both these capabilities seamlessly.

AR presents some truly exciting opportunities for enterprises and manufactures radically to enhance the way they educate, train, market, sell, and visualise their products and services.

For more information please visit www.ncam-tech.com