The Future of AV is Unreal
In 2016, I asked the AV industry, “Why aren’t we talking about NVIDIA?”
If you read my blog, I listed a lot of different areas where I thought NVIDIA could have a huge impact on AV, and although “Video Wall and Multi Window Screen Servers” were included as one of those potential opportunities, I have to say … I didn’t foresee all the possibilities that have opened up today.
At ISE 2023, BK Johannessen, Unreal Engine business director for broadcast and live events at Epic Games, gave the keynote. As his title suggests, his keynote had little to do with gaming, and everything to do with how gaming engines will play a major role in our AV futures. (You can also check out his interview segment during an episode of rAVe [TV] below.)
If you went to some of the major LED manufacturer booths at InfoComm 2022 or ISE 2023, you likely noticed a trend — XR stages. XR stages catapulted into the consciousness of mainstream AV shortly after “The Mandalorian” started using one for its production. The value proposition of an XR stage however, is not limited to Hollywood studios, but has a huge range of applications, including elevated corporate communications, whether it be a quarterly shareholder report, a new product launch or an all-hands meeting.
If you don’t know what an XR stage is composed of, typically there is an LED backdrop and an LED floor, stage lighting, cameras with camera tracking software, LED controllers AND a high-end compute device to do camera tracking and set extensions that create the illusion of a larger volume on camera through multiple graphics cards running a gaming engine environment in a program like Unreal.
You can also scale these stages down without XR to create virtual production environments for elevated corporate communications that may fit in the same footprint as a huddle room that is no longer needed due to a reduction in footfall at the office.
Now, you may be thinking that these applications sound great, but there is a large investment in creating environments and virtual sets in Unreal (or another gaming engine like Unity) that seem like a barrier to entry.
While I agree there is a needed investment in content creation, I’d also argue that if leveraged correctly, those investments can yield fruit in may other ways as well.
Virtual Design Services
If the environments built mirror an existing office or facility, those environments can be leveraged well beyond the XR stage. Realistic models of a company’s office space can be leveraged to explore new layouts and designs for the re-envisioning of the office and the future of work. Utilizing VR services like these can mitigate the need for costly mock-ups and test fits, as well as shorten the planning phase of a project to move the company closer to their end goal of increased productivity.
Immersive In-Person Experiences
Once a 3D environment exists, it could be deployed in a R&D facility or a sales center to create a workshop or a virtual tour in a cave-like environment utilizing four walls or a circular room with blended projection or LED. A host can maneuver the team through a virtual 3D world, creating sense of space and immersion, navigating through an exercise or brand story in a non-linear way.
A hosted version of the 3D environment could be accessed remotely online, either through a PC screen or through a VR headset, breaking through the typical VTC call and immersing remote participants in a way that galvanizes them from afar. For important meetings or demos, headsets could be shipped in advance of the meeting to participants. Think metaverse with a purpose.
As you can see, all of these scenarios offer increased customer and employee attention and multiple paths to ROI.
At the end of the day, XR and virtual production do require an investment in creating these 3D environments, and there is value in those applications alone. However, if you look beyond the stage, you’ll find that these environments have value in multiple other areas of the business as well.
It’s no wonder ISE made sure their keynote speaker was Unreal.