Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re exploring how the Quest Pro VR headset can be used for virtual production and what that tells us about the future of Hollywood.
What the Quest pro tells us about Hollywood’s future
Now that Meta’s Quest Pro is shipping, it’s worth keeping an eye on what early adopters are doing with the headset. One of the people at the bleeding edge of VR experimentation is former Nickelodeon executive Chris Young, who already posted a few very impressive Quest Pro videos to his LinkedIn feed in recent days.
Young was in charge of Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Lab the last time we met, where he was trying to figure out how to use VR and virtual production tools to change the way Hollywood produces animation.
- Nickelodeon shuttered those efforts in early 2020 following the Viacom-CBS merger, but Young wasn’t deterred. Now he’s toying with real-time virtual production work in the confines of his own four walls.
- As part of these efforts, Young has been experimenting with ways to capture and reuse real-life environments. “I’ve been slowly, when I have the time, building out an accurate digital twin of my house,” he told me.
- This week, he posted a video that shows him walking through that digital twin of his home and then using the Quest Pro’s controller to erase the digital layer and reveal the “real” version underneath.
- It’s a bit hard to describe, but pretty mind-blowing to see. You can check out an extended version on YouTube!
- “Technically, it was relatively easy to do,” Young told me. But without the Quest Pro’s color pass-through feature, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
- Not only was recording this type of footage harder with the Quest 2, but also the result just wasn’t the same. “It was obviously black and white, and kind of broke the illusion,” Young said.
Motion capture has also been top of mind for Young. Studios regularly use massive motion capture stages, with actors wearing those weird-looking black spandex suits with white dots on them to capture data that is then used for visual effects.
- At home, Young has been using a pared-down version of that technology, which includes Xsens motion-tracking sensors, the Unreal engine for live virtual production, and his family members in starring roles.
- With the Quest Pro, he was able to film a real-time performance of a family member goofing around in his living room while wearing a colorful VFX space suit.
- “What really stood out to me was not just how cool it was to see a color character in a color environment, just instantaneously, but then how robust the tracking is in that headset,” he told me. “How glued down those characters were.”
Young shared a bit of the secret sauce behind the video with me, which involved making use of the Quest Pro’s multitasking and networking capabilities.
- Young had both the Xsens tracking software as well as the Unreal game engine running on PCs in his home office. To connect to those machines, he simply used the Quest Pro’s wireless Air Link feature. “Being able to pop out of the VR experience that I was fully immersed in [and] have the power of my PCs in another room available to me to make the changes on the fly” was a game changer, Young told me.
- “Access to virtual desktops in pass-through is probably the killer app right now,” he said.
The Quest Pro may not be able to replace Hollywood’s production gear just yet, with Young noting that there are simply not enough creative tools for professionals available to date.
- “Right now, there’s no Adobe Creative Suite for VR,” Young said.
- Once those tools arrive, creative professionals will be jumping onto the VR bandwagon to incorporate headsets like the Quest Pro into virtual production workflows, Young predicts.
- However, Hollywood shouldn’t wait for this kind of technology to be polished to explore it, he argued.
- “If you’re in a big studio and you’re not buying every piece of new tech that’s coming along, it’s like waiting to see if email is going to be a thing,” Young said.
And perhaps you won’t even need a studio. Every time a new piece of technology comes along, people predict it will democratize Hollywood and revolutionize the world of film production. With VR, such a prediction could, for once, actually come true.
“Somebody just has to get in there and be the next Mike Judge and do the next ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ with this tech,” Young said, adding, “Is the Quest Pro going to change the world? Maybe not. But does it have some things in there that might be a part of the thing that does change the world? Most definitely.”
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