Intel shuts down its AR/VR volumetric capture stage
Intel Studios was operating a 10,000-square-foot stage in Los Angeles.
Photo: Intel Corporation
Intel has pulled the plug on one of its most ambitious AR/VR projects to date: The company quietly shut down Intel Studios, a 10,000-square-foot volumetric capture stage in Los Angeles, last month. The facility had been heralded as the world's largest capture stage of its kind, and was used to record music videos for Reggie Watts and K-pop band NCT 127, among others.
Intel confirmed the closure in a statement sent to Protocol: "We're proud of the impact Intel Studios has made in the industry and its role in growing the immersive entertainment category. Although we are closing Intel Studios due to business conditions, we look forward to where the entertainment industry moves in the future."
The chipmaker opened its Intel Studios facility in early 2018. At the center of the facility was a massive dome-shaped green-screen stage with more than 100 8K cameras, capable of recording the action from all angles. The resulting visual data could be used to create 3D holograms for AR experiences, as well as immersive 3D VR videos.
Intel hasn't been the only company building these kinds of studios, with startups like 8i and big companies like Microsoft also investing in 3D volumetric capture. But while most capture stages have been optimized to record only one person at a time, Intel Studios offered a Hollywood studio-sized stage capable of capturing massive performances. In 2018, the company partnered with Paramount to record a volumetric performance of the musical "Grease" with 20 dancers.
Part of the motivation for Intel to invest in Intel Studios was to produce proof points for a medium that requires massive computing resources, which ultimately could benefit Intel's core business. The Intel Studio space housed a number of Intel servers to crunch the data delivered from its 100-plus cameras via five miles of fiber-optic cables.
However, Intel Studios also had a mandate to become a sustainable business by renting out its recording space to others in Hollywood. That may have been a lot more challenging this year, as most studios struggle with pandemic-related shutdowns and movie theater closures, with few resources left for ambitious AR and VR projects.
In its statement, the company laid out plans to focus on immersive sports video capture instead going forward: "We believe that the future of sports content will be driven by volumetric technology, which enables us to produce all-encompassing experiences across viewing platforms."
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.