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CES '18: What Is Volumetric Video, and Why Should You Care?

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Volumetric video is so new that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but a session at CES last week offered insights into how Intel is setting the stage for shooting sports and scripted content in volumetric video using multiple camera to capture content in three dimensions.

Volumetric uses multiple cameras to shoot a 360° field of view, but it differs from standard 360° or VR video. "Volumetric is captured from the outside, in," said Intel Studios director Diego Prilusky.

Prilusky is heading up production at the new Intel Studios' 10,000 square-foot dome shaped facility (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd6vrSL7i1s&feature=youtu.be). Intel recently announced a partnership with Paramount pictures to start using this new medium, and outside the studio, Prilusky has been outfitting a number of sports arenas as well.

Seeing is Believing

One demo shared at CES showeda Western scene that can be viewed from any angle. Zooming in brings the viewer closer to a villian, while zooming out and brings the view closer to a horse. Another clip appeared to be shot from the horse's POV. Content can be viewed as either 2D or 3D, but obviously some effect is lost in 2D.

When setting up the system for sports events, Prilusky says older stadiums are harder to configure. "Right now we’re starting with about 40 cameras, and each is 5K resolution for each game," says Prilusky. The systems used for the NFL produced data at a rate of 3 terabytes per minute.

Three dimensional content uses a voxel, which is like a pixel that’s placed in 3-dimensional space and provides depth or volume to the content (and which does have a Wikipedia entry). "(Voxels) are a point in space that has a color value. You put all these pixels together you have a color image," Prilusky said

Biggest Challenges

"The choke point is bandwidth,” Prilusky said. “The limited amount of data today we’re seeing is enough for broadcasting 4K. I think the platform needs to mature from the consumer perspective. Cloud compute sometime is not enough."

"We’re establishing a platform and a structure at the same time," he said. This includes setting up a complete production facility capable of handling all of that raw video. "We’re talking about big data, a huge amount of data to compute." He said there are future needs across the whole workflow, including digitization and processing of motion and visuals.

For sporting events, of course, content must be produced very quickly, whereas in the studio, time isn’t as much of an issue. Either way, volumetric video is going to make 4K look like a walk in the park in terms of capture, processing, and delivery. When will we have the option to watch a game in volumetric video? "I think we are really close," said Prilusky.

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