We can barely begin to imagine the impact that volumetric video will have on the realm of entertainment. The power of volumetric capture is that it makes a photorealistic, three dimensional recording of all the physical magic that makes a performance captivating. The real stays real. The implications this technology will have across all forms of entertainment are boundless, from live performance, to film and television, to social media. Someday little children will ask us, “what was it like when the world was flat?” and we should take some notes now so we’ll know what to tell them.
Virtual Reality entertainment is already being made, and it’s already pretty amazing, but we have not yet had the technology for VR performances to feel actually real. With a few exceptions, the performers have shown up as illustrated versions of themselves or as 2D video. They haven’t looked like their real selves in all three dimensions. You couldn’t move around the concert venue and get the view from the side, you always hit up against the edge of the replica.
And VR entertainment hasn’t generally been live. Super Bowl halftime show live. Kanye West on the news during Hurricane Katrina live. With Soar’s compression, a live performance can be streamed three dimensionally, into your living room, in the moment it’s happening. Instead of watching an awards show and tweeting our reactions, we could be standing in the space with the rest of the audience, saying our reactions out loud. The distance from the cameras to the performers in 2D video is pretty far. If they could have shot the MTV Video Music Awards with Soar back in 2013, Miley Cyrus could have been twerking right in our face.
It’s not just the performers who can break the rules of time space using volumetric capture. Have a Friday night date to attend a concert together with a friend who lives across the world. Show up to live events in times when for whatever reason you can’t leave the house (say for example you couldn’t get childcare, or perhaps there is a global pandemic). Note to the grandkids: yes there were a couple of years at the start of the 2020’s where musicians had to cancel their tours and many people didn’t really go out to shows. No, it wasn’t possible then to attend a concert in the metaverse. We passed the time watching a lot of flat media and some VR. It was a pretty good distraction but it could have been better.
Volumetric capture has applications that can make even 2D media more real. For decades, film and video producers have been using CGI animation to transcend the limits of gravity— we’re accustomed to seeing human actors fly through the universe, peel off their faces, and shoot lasers from their eyes. We’re also accustomed to the slightly less than real quality of these animations. They look fake because, ultimately, they’re invented. However, using volumetric capture, it’s possible to shoot an actor and create a representational 3D model instantly. There is a human performance at the core of the footage, something true and intimate, upon which VFX artists can build their magic. Volumetric capture also makes it possible to work with performers in far flung locations and bring them together, photorealistically, in post.
So, kids, in the time when this blog is published— this breath of time before volumetric video is everywhere— there are many things I’ve never seen. Miley Cyrus never twerked in my face (ask your mom who Miley Cyrus was). My favorite influencer never beamed into my living room and shook my hand. I never saw a movie that seemed so real I almost thought I was living it. The limitations of time and space are more or less fixed, if you’re here you’re here and if you’re not you’re not. It would be amazing if we could beam in the kids of tomorrow to tell us what this volumetric future will be like, but we’re just going to have to wait for it. But not too long.