Disguise and its aims to bend the reality of sport broadcasting with xR

Disguise has spent recent weeks working hard on the release of its new extended reality (xR) technology, designed to bring augmented, virtual and mixed reality to life. Here we talk to CSO at disguise, Tom Rockhill, about this development and what it means for those in sports broadcasting.

What new sports broadcasting-focused technology have you released lately?

We have been working on innovating our extended reality (xR) technology, first debuted at NAB 2019, which empowers production teams to deliver augmented and mixed reality to create immersive experiences in virtual production environments, opening new opportunities for sports and esports broadcast in the current changing climate.

The features and flexible workflows benefit creatives in a number of ways, such as creating a limitless environment in limited spaces, camera tracking, real time content, use of LEDs and more.

xR’s virtual set extension places presenters in environments larger than the spaces available, opening up worlds of opportunity, creating more compelling content to increase audience engagement. This complete immersion allows for interaction with computer graphic (CG) elements, real lighting and support for reflective and refractive props.

xR’s virtual environment combines camera tracking and real time content not only visible on screen, but live on set and on camera. This process gives directors and designers more control, and faster calibration workflows. LED screens, or projection surfaces in the space allows actors to be absorbed into virtual environments where they can see and interact with the entire set.

Additional xR calibration features heighten time and cost efficiency, with the ability to pre-visualise camera shots, enabling better coordination between stage or set and camera departments and enabling environments to be created or changed rapidly.

What is the benefit of this technology for those in sports video content production?

xR is being utilised across varied sports and esports broadcasting. For the 2019 Rugby World Cup Studio a ‘window on the world’ set was created by Anna Valley for the duration of the tournament combining live action, augmented reality and mixed reality using high resolution LED screens to give the impression of a Japanese cityscape. The studio responded to on-set camera movements in the same way a physical camera would deliver a panoramic view, transporting and immersing fans watching the broadcast from home, further into the Rugby action in Japan.

Within eSports broadcasting recently, xR was utilised on the HP OMEN Esports Challenge, the first to be broadcast using the xR technology, to create a one of a kind unique and immersive tournament experience.

Mixed Reality was used in two ways during the show. The first was a studio environment using content generated all in real time, which allowed the casters to be transported to a different world in-camera. The world could also be rendered from the game engine to place the casters directly into the map. The second use was to allow players and interviewers to “step into” the game world and replay the biggest moments. Using a Steadicam and rendering the game engine into both the LED and virtual worlds, the players could see themselves in the game, and describe their best moves.

Our creative and production team worked closely with the developer of the OMEN game and amateur map designers, a custom solution was built to make the real-world set, game data and content align with the digital equivalent. Essentially creating a virtual studio and set which, through camera, would seem as though a real person was in the game. This was achieved by using xR to enlarge and overlay content in-camera while using MR to track the real broadcast camera world, including camera tracking, so the live broadcast cameras were aligned with the digital cameras in the game.

How might this technology or service be developed further in the future?

With the demand for augmented, virtual and mixed reality workflows increasing exponentially, especially during a time where people are confined indoors, and most of their entertainment is coming from a screen, brands, businesses and broadcasters are having to initiate the creation of groundbreaking and next level content experiences for home viewers as content consumption continues to climb. We have responded to this with the release of our r17.2 software, which came out in early May.

r17.2 allows users to create simple augmented reality screens without the need for other tools so they can quickly test out ideas for augmented experiences, making it possible to render layers separately, users can also experience better overall project performance and a cleaner workflow. We also have a new ‘spherical camera’ for rendering 360 video contact for engaging online audiences which is also compatible with VR headsets.

What else are we likely to see coming out from your company over the next six months, and why is it of interest to the sports video production community?

At disguise we have built a large community of users which are of the utmost importance to us. This is one of the reasons we’ve waived the fee to our Designer software, and created the disguise OnDemand platform with free training webinars in multiple languages; we care about our community and want to do everything in our power to ensure we are supporting the industry, especially throughout uncertain times as these.

As the current climate changes and the industry continues to adapt and change, so will our offering of tools, products and workflows to always enable creative and technical professionals to deliver challenging, innovative and often groundbreaking projects with confidence.

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