Dimension Studio: The First Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Stage in the World

Having a state-of-the-art volumetric and 3D capture studio doesn’t come easy. However, when it came to the setting up Dimension Studio, it only took about a year. Dimension Studio opened on the 24th October 2017, in London thanks to the partnership of Hammerhead VR, Digital Catapult and Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio. Harnessing six years of Microsoft research and one of the only three of such studios globally, Dimension Studio is the start for the next generation of immersive content in Europe. Callum Macmillan, Director at Dimension Studio gave VRFocus a tour of the first Microsoft Mixed Reality capture stage in the world. 

A dancer being captured inside the volumetric studio.

For those of you who do not know what volumetric capture is, it is essentially a moving image that you can look at from any angle. It’s free viewpoint content – a system for viewing natural video, allowing the user to interactively control the viewpoint and generate new views of a dynamic scene from any 3D position. When it comes to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) or even regular videogames, the ability to portray a realistic human is usually done through animating virtual human beings. This breaks the ‘illusion’, as we can visually tell through subtle nuances, movements, eye contact and movement that what we are looking at is not ‘reality’. Dimension Studio aims to solve this problem by capturing real humans and creating a virtual asset of their performance that can then be used in VR,  AR or MR applications.

Macmillan has had 20 years of experience in camera technologies. Anything that would that involve filming a scene with multiple cameras, such as bullet time from The Matrix (1999). He explains that capture the virtual human can be done in their capture studio which has a total of 106 cameras. The stage is built up of eight towers on wheels, each tower has twelve cameras on them creating a circular array of 96 cameras. The twelve cameras consist of six RGB cameras and six infrared cameras, combined with lasers and lights to capture 2K resolution details of a human being.

The towers are on wheels to either film one to three individuals on the stage that measures up to eight feet across. When capturing a single individual and there is little movement, they will bring the towers closer to the subject in order to get the highest quality of capture. They have to be careful not to bring too many individuals in, particularly when characters interact, as object occlusion can take place. Occlusion takes place when one object in a 3D space is blocking another object from view from the cameras, distorting the image or footage capture. The additional ten cameras suspended from the top of stage complete the whole set up. The team have also put eight microphones on the top to get a good level, though the production team may choose to use clip mics or lav mics depending on the costume or clothing the subject needs to wear during the shoot. Macmillan explains that they’re not trying to do anything fancy with microphones like spatial audio, as this can be done in post-production. When VRFocus came by they had just added a bar on top in order to suspend people from the bar with wires for VFX or wire work, enabling action shots like flying for example. A similar setup also exists in the studio but with a primary focus on non-moving objects

At the moment anybody can hire the studio space. Production and animation houses can book the studio on a commercial basis, and researchers working in the immersive field that are seeking to push the boundaries are also welcome to come by.The footage captured can be used for various industries such as gaming, TV, film, fashion, digital manufacturing, health and education just to name a few. Macmillan says that clients from an entertainment  background, education, training and marketing are huge sectors that are excited about using their space. Dimension Studio is currently working with Sky VR and other broadcast partners to produce unique experiences across drama, sport and documentaries.

To find out more watch the video below.