Spot­light on tech­nol­ogy

How Google in­no­vates with story al­ways firmly in mind

3D World - - FEATURE -

Film­mak­ers pro­duc­ing Google Spot­light Sto­ries need tools to sup­port their creative vi­sions and Google pro­vides them with the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise.

Along with pro­duc­ing plug­ins for Maya and Pro Tools, Google has de­vel­oped a pro­pri­etary soft­ware pro­gram that helps with the end-toend pro­duc­tion of VR sto­ries. “Story Ed­i­tor is a cus­tom vis­ual tool to cre­ate and edit non-lin­ear sto­ries start­ing from an­i­ma­tion clips or videos,” ex­plains Google Spot­light Sto­ries tech­ni­cal project lead Rachid El Guerrab. “This also in­cludes tools to edit and con­trol ob­ject-based or Am­bisonic au­dio and its in­ter­ac­tion with the viewer.”

A ren­der­ing and an­i­ma­tion en­gine was cre­ated be­cause none of the offthe-shelf so­lu­tions pro­vided the right amount of flex­i­bil­ity or per­for­mance. “This en­abled us to shrink it to al­most the size of a video codec, which al­lowed us to in­te­grate into the Youtube app,” ex­plains El Guerrab. “But even then, we had to make it as close to play­ing a video as pos­si­ble, even though it’s a full real-time game. This meant sub-sec­ond startup, con­tin­u­ous non­lin­ear stream­ing based on how you’re watch­ing, in­stant shut­down if you switch to some­thing else, and many other sim­i­lar chal­lenges.”

The Sonaria and Son of Jaguar Sto­ries carry on the tra­di­tion of each new ti­tle for Google Spot­light Sto­ries, re­sult­ing in tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion.

“Sonaria started as a tech­ni­cal show­case ex­per­i­ment for our au­dio tech­nol­ogy,” states El Guerrab. “So nat­u­rally we used var­i­ous as­pects of the au­dio en­gine, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to: oc­clu­sion and real-time fil­ter­ing of au­dio, re­verb and sim­i­lar ef­fects, and mix­ing 360 sound­scapes in a way that al­lows six de­grees of free­dom move­ment. Son of Jaguar, on the other hand, was our first show de­signed from the ground up as a room-scale VR ex­pe­ri­ence. We evolved many of our in­ter­ac­tive tools to deal with the viewer mov­ing around the scene and the story re­act­ing prop­erly to it. The show also pushed our ren­der­ing tech to han­dle the high-de­tailed char­ac­ters and an­i­ma­tion, and still down­scale prop­erly for mo­bile.

“As GSS tran­si­tioned from in­ter­ac­tive 360 con­tent for mo­bile, to stereo VR and then room-scale VR,” notes El Guerrab, “we’ve been evolv­ing the same sto­ry­telling con­cepts through­out, and will be mov­ing the same way into the new re­al­i­ties of AR and MR. That said, with each for­mat, we have to work hard on how to ex­pose the pos­si­bil­i­ties to artists and direc­tors as creative el­e­ments they can take ad­van­tage of. We also have to con­stantly think about how the same story plays out in all these dif­fer­ent out­lets, which is the crux of our R&D ef­fort at Google.”

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