Becoming a part of someone’s emotional world so that you can read their thoughts. For some people, this sounds like a very useful luxury, but for others, it is a dire necessity.
The production My Strange Head poses the question of whether the latest technological developments can help in this respect, and conducted further research within Chronosphere, the Effenaar Smart Venue’s R&D programme concerning volumetric capture.
My Strange Head was created by Cassandra De Klerck, who has been designing and developing virtual worlds since 2008. In doing so, she has been pursuing the mission of bridging the gap between lightning-fast advancements in technology and film. She says, “I want to connect the very latest technological developments to innovative stories that add something to society.”
A beautiful mission that fits well with the experimental and innovative character of Chronosphere. Cassandra’s Virtual Acting was also one of the first teams to take part in the unique R&D programme.
My Strange Head
One of Cassandra’s innovative and social stories is My Strange Head. This true story is about Nick, a 29-year-old surfer/biker who suffers from being highly gifted and highly sensitive. His only hope is that one day he will be able to make other people a part of his thoughts and feelings. He can no longer stand the fact that he is never understood. Nick hopes that the latest technological developments can change this. To make this wish come true, Cassandra uses virtual reality, volumetric video, photogrammetry and artificial intelligence, to make the viewer a part of the complex and beautiful process that takes place in the inner world of the gifted Nick.
Within Chronosphere, the first scene of My Strange Head was key. Using an HTC Vive and a gaming PC, the viewer enters Nick’s studio, where he explains why he feels that those around him do not understand him.
The theme of this scene is high sensitivity, which is realised through image, sound, distance and interaction. For this, Cassandra immediately brings together many different technologies to test the connection between them and the effect they have. This makes it a fascinating case for Chronosphere.
Participation in Chronosphere
The aim of this project was to answer both technical and conceptual questions. Cassandra wanted to gain knowledge on how volumetric video can best be combined with photogrammetry, but she also researched what the distance and proximity of a volumetric character do to the sense of presence and identification.
During the project, a switch was made from Unity to Unreal for production. This was chosen because Unreal specialises in cinematic productions; they have more tools to integrate games and film. Combining volumetric video with photogrammetry posed no significant problems. This was achieved by converting the photogrammetry model to OBJ and using the plugins of 4Dviews for volumetric video. However, the volumetric videos do produce a large amount of data, which affects the performance when multiple volumetric videos are run simultaneously.
This has a major impact on the conceptualisation of a VR film, as it is common for multiple characters to emerge in a single scene. It is very useful to investigate this further in relevant updates and new features, for example in a new round of Chronosphere.
In order to investigate the presence and identification, two variants of scene 1 have been made. In the first variant, you are farther away from the characters and you cannot move freely while in the second scene this is the opposite. Both variants were tested by fifteen people.
It turned out that all respondents preferred the first variant, with the longer distance to the characters. The scene was experienced as quite intense, and it was therefore comfortable to be the observer. In the second variant, some of the respondents felt that the distance was fairly close. In this variant, however, you could move around freely, and it was also a question of where you stood.
The testers therefore definitely experienced a ‘sense of presence, and in addition, the distance to the volumetric video had an effect on how comfortably they experienced the scenes.
On the top, is a screenshot from the first variant, where the viewer stands farther away from the characters. On the bottom, is a screenshot from the second variant, where the viewer has the freedom to stand very close to the characters.
Cassandra looks back on Chronosphere in a positive light from Virtual Acting: “This research was very valuable. It has given me good insight into the possibilities of making a twenty-minute short film with the techniques of volumetric video and photogrammetry. Chronosphere gave me the opportunity for experimentation, and that made it very accessible to work with this technique.”
My Strange Head is a longer-term project within Virtual Acting and will be further developed as an artistic and experimental concept in the coming years. Cassandra says: “By continuing to participate with My Strange Head in innovative programmes such as Chronosphere, we are able to push the boundaries of film production.
More information about Virtual Acting and My Strange Head can be found here.
Are you also working on films in virtual reality in which volumetric video can be of added value? Please share with Chronosphere are happy to share our knowledge, insights and research results with you.
Read another case study by 4DR Studios on Future Static: