The Science of Virtual Sets

VS03Virtual Set technology has been around for many years, however only recently has the quality, technology, and price reached a point where both live and post production virtual sets are available to a wide range of video professionals.

 

The term Virtual Set has been blurred somewhat over time, originally meaning to use a computer and a camera tracker to generate a background in realtime to chromakey talent into, Virtual Sets now encompassVS01 both live and post, tracking and trackless solutions, and is even used to refer to simple blue/greenscreen work where talent is keyed into a studio.

There are many different kinds of virtual sets; Virtualsetworks offers virtual sets in Standard Definition, High Definition, 4K, Tricaster SD, Tricaster XD, 3D Studio MAX, and Lightwave 3D. I'll explain how these are commonly used:

Standard Definition, High Definition, and 4K are used with Post Production programs like editors and compositors. They come as layers allowing you to create the illusion that the talent is standing behind a desk and that video is playing in the monitors.

NewTek's Tricaster SD and Tricaster XD versions run on their proprietary hardware, but make operating a live virtual set a breeze, scaling the talent into the set, placing the B Source into the screens and adding reflections. The main difference between the two is resolution, the XD being able to produce in High Definition and that the XD can do virtual camera moves like zooms.

The 3D Studio MAX version is optimized for realtime rendering, it's a 3D version uniquely situated for use with realtime rendering platforms but with it's lighting baked into the textures, it is not very editable.

NewTek's Lightwave 3D version is the most powerful and flexible, but also the most technically demanding to use giving you full control over every aspect of the set and a true 3D environment for work with tracking markers.

Virtual Set Production falls into two main categories, Live and Post. The former giving you feedback in realtime as to what your greenscreen composite looks like, the later giving you more flexibility and control to make decisions at your lesiure. The other main difference being price, you can get into virtual set post production for hundreds of dollars vs thousands of dollars for live productions.

VS02Live Production

Long the domain of the six figure budgets virtual sets took a surprise turn in the late nineties with the release of Play’s Trinity.  With a built in chroma keyer and some unusual virtual set features it turned the industry’s notion of what a virtual set was on it’s ear.  Years later NewTek released it’s Video Toaster system which in version 5 had similar functionality, allowing for realtime keying, scaling, and reflections of talent and a B source.  That technology followed onto their Tricaster line and matured with their XD products; an HD switcher with virtual set abilities including a trackless zoom.  The Tricaster products have been very popular due to their comparatively low pricing, multiple functionalities, and unique virtual set abilities not found in other products at any price point.  NewTek ships the Tricaster with a few virtual sets and many more are available online at virtualset.com.

Post ProductionVS03

Any program with a chroma keyer can create the illusion of a virtual set at a far lower cost than live production.  These include editors such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas, and compositors like Adobe After Effects, Eyeon Fusion, and Apple Motion as well as many other programs.  These can be as simple as keying your talent over a background, or as complex as tracking markers and layering together a complex scene with camera motion. There are also examples of virtual set tutorials which will walk you through how to use virtual sets with common post production programs.
Virtualsetworks also offers virtual set design services to modify any of their existing library of virtual sets or to create a virtual set custom from scratch, examples and pricing can be found on their website. Some productions require changes to the set, or the client prefers to have a unique identity, whatever the need the ability to modify sets to your clients designs is available.     

With amazing network quality productions coming out of garages and classrooms thanks to modern computing power, innovative software, and inexpensive virtual set backgrounds it’s hard to imagine what will come next. Now in beta testing, intensiKey's post production virtual set software promises to offer the power of a true 3D program without the complexity.

Virtualsetworks also offers virtual set design services to modify any of their existing library of virtual sets or to create a virtual set custom from scratch, examples and pricing can be found on their website. Some productions require changes to the set, or the client prefers to have a unique identity, whatever the need the ability to modify sets to your clients designs is available.

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For more on Virtualsetworks visit www.virtualsetworks.com or visit their YouTube channel