Plazamedia, Vizrt Create Germany’s First Real-Time HD 3D Virtual Studio

Plazamedia was already enthusiastic about its real-time HD virtual studio, but Vizrt provided the extra dimension that made the studio pop. In a demonstration for clients last month, Plazamedia’s new HD virtual studio went 3D.

“We knew that Plazamedia planned to demonstrate its new real-time HD virtual studio. So we thought, ‘why not take it one step further and create all the scenes in 3D?,’” says Vizrt CEO Gerhard Lang. “The Plazamedia [virtual studio] is something that has never been done before. We think this will really leverage 3D broadcast production.”

The Plazamedia-Vizrt venture marks the first real-time HD 3D virtual studio in Germany and serves as a cost-effective alternate to traditional 3D production. Using Viz Virtual Studio and the Viz Engine rendering engine, the HD virtual studio and master-control room create HD stereoscopic images in real time without costly 3D camera rigs and real studios.

“With production in a virtual studio, you can have creative freedom and are independent of real studio sets,” says Plazamedia CEO Florian Nowosad. “You also have virtual access to all venues as well as ‘contact’ with all players and trainers through animated graphics.”

The system features 16 virtual cameras and is capable of creating real-time HD and 3D graphics, such as player avatars and studio backgrounds. Live talent can be shot and instantly viewed with the surrounding 3D virtual environment on a monitor by the director.

“When you start off designing 3D, you need a perspective camera. We have 16 of those available for the artist to choose from,” says Lang. “You can look at the scene from all different angles.”

Vizrt also added a feature that allows the artist to easily define zero parallax distance and eye separation to ensure a palatable 3D experience. These settings can be saved with the scene to avoid constant adjustment during production, and Vizrt’s stereoscopic rendering ensures that the talent remains properly situated within the 3D scene. In addition, a talent-tracking system gives the coordinates of the talent relative to the camera, allowing the system to adjust the 3D settings in correlation with the talent’s location.

“You’re uploading the images so that the talent is 100% in line with the floor and dimensions of the [studio] stage,” says Lang. “That enabled us to do a stereo production without having to use a complete 3D rig. If you think about it, that takes away a lot of your setup and equipment costs.”

The studio creates entirely new possibilities for sports studio shows and sports programming. For example, during Plazamedia’s demonstration, clients were given a look at a virtual starting lineup for a soccer match (see image), with an anchor walking among 3D avatars of players as she introduced the team. The studio can also present the image of an analyst on the field of play offering insight during the game.

“The anchor would be shot in real time while this virtual studio instantly surrounds them on camera,” says Lang. “If you have the experts talking about the game, you can set them up in a complete 3D virtual-studio environment that allows them to [appear to] be in the game [as they provide analysis].”

While the Plazamedia studio is just the first of its kind in Germany, Lang is confident that use of this technology will skyrocket as the demand for 3D content continues to grow.

“This is definitely not a one-off,” says Lang. “Some of Vizrt’s customers, such as ESPN, the NFL, and BSkyB, have already been on-air with stereo 3D content. Broadcasters just require proof that this technology is ready for primetime. With Plazamedia’s HD 3D virtual studio, we’ve demonstrated that 3D production is indeed a valid option.”