Tuesday, May 9, 2017

VR Content Creation Moves to the Next Phase: Facebook Closes Oculus Story Studio

Beautiful, Creative Tools for Everyone

Many of you will have already seen this blog post by Jason Rubin, revealing that Facebook will be closing Oculus Story Studio. Story Studio has created well-regarded narrative VR content including the Emmy Award winning Henry, as well as creating the Quill VR creative platform.

While the timing of the announcement was surprising, the fact that Facebook isn't an original content studio and doesn't want to get into that business, should not be a surprise. The consensus of how the VR market will develop is that it must hit a critical mass of users, gear and content for it to be sustainable. The initial phase of content generation needed to come from the companies that make hardware and platforms, to showcase what is possible and generate interest.  Facebook decided that it was time to focus on the next phase: supporting third-party content creators financially and technically.

Facebook, like Google, is a data company. The timeline that they're on is aggressive, but again, Facebook pushing the envelope shouldn't really be surprising either.  Even though their actions are predictable from a business perspective, it must be disruptive personally for the crack Story Studio team. With that as a given, it is also a note of optimism for the VR ecosystem, that Facebook feels the community is strong enough and creative enough to pick up the ball.

What I am most worried about is the fate of Quill.  It appears that there will be no new updates to it, but there is a possibility that Oculus may open the source code to developers. Let's hope that this innovative tool doesn't wither away.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Assimilate SCRATCH VR Suite v8.6 Released

SCRATCH VR Suite adds support for multi-cam stitching from 360-degree rigs, ambisonic audio, HDR and more in a major update.

Assimilate has just released the update in anticipation of NAB and it is currently available for download. Assimilate calls its SCRATCH VR Suite the only professional, end-to-end workflow for VR/360 content currently on the market.

Improved Stitching

SCRATCH VR now supports 360-degree stitching and the ability to load shots from multiple cameras, wrap them into a stitch node and combine them into an equirectangular image. They have also added support for various camera stitch templates, including AutoPano, Hugin, PTGui and PTStitch scripts. Users can also now create their own custom templates within SCRATCH VR.   An improved workflow allows you to either render the equirectangular template or continue to edit, grade and composite on top of the stitched nodes and then do a final render.

Ambisonic Audio Support (all images courtesy of Assimilate)

Ambisonic Audio

SCRATCH VR can now load, set and playback ambisonic audio files and publish video with 360-degree sound directly to YouTube 360 or Facebook. It now automatically recognizes ambisonic audio embedded in an h.264 file or you can load a separate .amb audio file and link it in the timeline.

SCRATCH VR now supports PQ and HLG HDR standards

HDR Support

There has been a major upgrade in HDR support. Scratch VR now supports PQ (Perceptual Quantizer) and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), both recognized standards. Scratch's scopes also automatically switch to HDR and use a nit-scale. For output, users can now also define HDR mastering metadata for monitoring and publication.

Other key new features:
  • Support for new formats: 10-bit h.264, .mp4 or .mov output
  • A new high-speed DNxHR MXF encoder
  • Support for ACES 1.0.3
  • Simplified DIT report generation
  • Enhanced Cinema DNG support
  • Improved playback within the application
  • Re-designed UI
  • Support for all major headsets and updates to support others as they are released

Scratch VR Suite 8.6 is now available for download as either a free trial version or $1,995 for the full version.