Virtual Sets — For Real

Correspondent Carl Lindemann takes a look at the latest wares.

Virtual sets are gaining traction as both advances in the technology and the realities of HD production make them an attractive alternative. Offerings from Vizrt, Orad, and Neuro TV may, depending on production needs, be the realistic option for delivering quality, economy, and efficiency.

“Virtual sets allow you to do multiple shows on the same stage,” says Shaun Dail, VP of Sales & Marketing, North America, for Orad. “Also, you change sets with a press of a button today because you don’t need time to recalibrate cameras.”

According to Dail, Orad has more than 1,000 installs worldwide, or 70% of the market. One reason for increasing acceptance? Improved realism.

“We’re a long way from the early days in the ’90s, when virtual sets looked too ‘cartoony.’ Back then, render power was expensive, too: $500,000 for a single engine. We’ve had a new release every six months — 36 so far.” says Dail.

Interactivity is another significant advance. Vizrt is showcasing interactivity at NAB with touchscreen devices.

“These are tools to enhance storytelling,” says Vizrt Chief Engineering Officer Gerhard Lang, and they’re all nonlinear.”

He sees the transition from SD to HD as a major driver for virtual sets. “Building sets for HD is very costly. Minor imperfections become major distractions. Fingerprints stand out. A virtual set is a clean set.”

Chyron has gotten into the act through a partnership with Neuro TV, whose virtual-set capabilities are now tightly integrated into Chyron’s graphics.

According to Neuro TV Sales Director Sebastien Hiernaux, the agreement realizes Chyron’s mission to deliver tremendous savings over traditional methods: “Our technology fulfills Chyron’s goal to provide 5:1 cost savings compared to building HD sets.”

While Neuro TV is a relative newcomer to the market, this gives it a technology advantage over the established players. “We use DirectX and not Open GL,” Hiernaux points out. “The visual quality is better with DirectX, [which uses] less resources so it can deliver more-realistic details.”