What is Virtual Reality
Defining Immersive virtual reality is something of a challenge. In the mid-1800’s the phrase was famously discussed in relation to live theatrical productions (Artaud, et. al.). After all, a play is “real.” (Or is it?) DARPA, NASA, MIT, EVL created intricate simulation environments in the 1970’s; Atari created ”VR” games in the 1980’s; Apple made PhotoVR a reality in the 1990’s; Facebook and Google joined in 2010’s.
Then there were companies like Disney and IMAX, who popularized these advances, contributing their own patents and methods along the way. Of IMAX, Author, director and producer Ben Shedd famously wrote, immersive media “is a frameless view, the language is still being invented, and it is different from what we have come to know and understand” from more familiar media such as theater, cinema and video.
This is where VR-MAX lives: in the world between military development of advanced simulations for training, business uses for marketing, and public education in planetariums.
For our purposes, we define virtual reality as simulation, 360 degree video as a form of live capture, and domes (most notably Fulldomes and CAVE’s) as a superior way to present any and all of them.
Immersive Virtual Reality: Displays
Fulldomes, VRGoggles, CAVE’s
Any self-supporting screen that envelopes the viewers field of view by approximately 180º horizontally and vertically. Popular names in the Dome production and distribution world:
Almost all Planetariums are immersive by design.
Notable manufacturers: Elumenati, Evans & Sutherland, et. al.
– IMAX-Dome™ Omnimax™ OmniTheater™ (IMAX theaters are neither domes nor immersive. They are “big.”)1
Head Mounted Displays (HMD – aka VR goggles)
Head mounted displays are akin to binoculars – a method of putting linear, interactive, live-capture or computer-generated imagery into a viewers eyes through a device strapped to the head, covering the eyes and preventing peripheral vision.
(Note: Popular gaming HMDs are not necessarily immersive.2 They may put the viewer in the middle of a 360º environment, but the viewer must turn to see that environment. When the field of view does not encompass 180º field of vision, the experience does not “fool” the brain into believing “this is real.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t fun!)
A fully enclosed environment with synchronized rear-screen projection or synchronized flat panel screens on six-sides of that environment; ceiling, floor and all four sides.
- “Film formats such as Omnimax did not cover the full two steradians of the dome surface, leaving a section of the dome blank (though, due to seating arrangements, that part of the dome was not seen by most viewers)” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulldome
- In 2014 Facebook purchased goggle maker Oculus Rift, and Google introduced Google Cardboard. Interest in these light-weight Head Mounted Displays (HMD) spilled into public view and interest in “VR” goggles became intense. This interest peaked with the New York Times giving away over 1 million Google Cardboard viewers. The devices may or may not be adapted outside gaming and specialty business uses.
FAQ: Planning Dome Productions
VR-MAX immersive dome presentations are projected onto a curved screen that completely surrounds the viewer’s field of vision, taking advantage of peripheral vision. VR-MAX creates, on a relatively small screen, the same effect as an Omni theater. The effect is immersive. It can even be vertigo-inducing, if you want it to be. The effect can be recreated through goggles.
Curved / Warped Video
The videos on this website have a spherical warp and curved edges because VR-MAX screens are spherical. The immersive effect cannot be recreated on a traditional, flat screen like a computer monitor or television. Some spherical video, however, can be “flattened” for viewing on a flat screen.
VR-MAX presentations are shot with a “fish-eye” lens. They appear normal on a curved or spherical screen. Existing footage was not shot this way, and will appear warped or disotorted when projected onto the curved screen. Some computer-generated imagery (CGI) can be re-rendered for the VR-MAX presentation if all components are provided. Critical existing footage that can’t be re-shot, like interviews or historic content, can be boxed into a portion of the screen.
CGI vs. Live Capture
In general, we use linear CGI to create the fantastic (an impossible first-person ride through something (a heart, a molecule, a star), non-linear VR to explore the non-existent (Architectural walkthroughs) and Live Capture to showcase the real or theatrical. More important than any generalization, however, is finding the right creative story for your purpose and audience.
We provide detailed proposals and cost estimates prior to beginning an engagement. Until we talk, answering cost questions are analogous to ”How much is a car?” or ”How much are groceries?” There is wide latitude.
FULLDOME FAQ: Full Dome Installations
The domed screen and projector require a flat surface, standard electrical access, and sufficient space to keep all sides clear of obstacles. Domes are made of strong vinyl. Although the risk of accidental puncture is low, any sharp object applied with force could puncture a dome. They should not be placed near water or heat or sharp objects.
Some domes have exposed screens. They must be placed in a low-light area or inside an environment that blocks light from above and all sides. Full domes are enclosed and require no additional darkening.
Although most Domes can withstand some wind and drizzle, but heavy moisture will ruin them. So outdoor setups require additional weather protection.
Set-up and take-down
Set-up and takedown require about 90 minutes from unpacking to show time and vice-versa.
Anyone with basic understanding of computers and projectors can be trained to set up and take down the domed screen and projector and to run a VR-MAX presentation. Allow a full workday for training in setup and use of the equipment.
A custom wrap can be created with any branding message. Deliveries for custom domes is 9 weeks, since the wrap must be fitted to the completed dome. A design that takes advantage of the dome shape is recommended. ”Off the shelf” domes can be delivered in 6 weeks or less.