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Walla Walla University Builds XR Stage Using Unreal Engine and Scalable Display Technologies

Walla Walla University Builds XR Stage Using Unreal Engine and Scalable Display Technologies

Based in College Place, Washington, Walla Walla University (WWU) is a private Adventist university with four campuses located throughout the Pacific Northwest. The main campus sits on 83 acres in the Walla Walla Valley in southeastern Washington state, where cultural arts, vibrant dining, and recreational opportunities abound. Founded in 1892, the university offers more than 100 areas of study, including pre-professional degrees and four graduate programs to 1,700 students annually.

WWU offers a hands-on, deep dive into the cinematic world through its film, TV and media degree program. The film, TV and media major aims to help students learn and apply essential skills in filmmaking, production, animation, effects and directing. By harnessing the latest production technology, the university provides students with hands-on experience, developing their knowledge of on-set procedures and building professional portfolios.

Jerry Hartman, professor of film, TV and media for WWU, spearheaded the latest development in the university’s video production studio. With a background in movie and television production, Hartman has spent the last 16 years educating students as they explore a variety of exciting careers such as film directing, product design, music directing and virtual reality production.

“Walla Walla University continues to invest in new technology to support virtual production,” said Hartman. “WWU is a small, liberal arts facility, but we emphasize learning in real-world environments through field education, design competitions, labs, research, art shows, student teaching, study tours and studio work. We want to allow our students to experiment and understand the technology they will find themselves interacting with in the real world. Today’s high-profile film production studios leverage new technologies, like large LED displays, to support virtual video production. We must incorporate that into our curriculum.”

Hartman added, “There’s a significant barrier to entry with LED displays because of the price point. Adopting these technologies is incredibly expensive, but we’ve found that projection is a very reliable alternative. We have a green screen cyclorama, which we repainted white, that we utilize to project content onto. We’ve incorporated Unreal Engine, an advanced real-time 3D creation tool for visuals and immersive experiences, and two projectors on the cyclorama to create our production stage.”

WWU selected Scalable Display Technologies to automatically blend two projectors across the cyclorama to create one seamless display. Founded in 2004, Scalable is the original patent-holding inventor of automatic camera-based warp and blend technology. Ideal for virtually any projection application, Scalable’s software works on flat, curved, domed and customized screen shapes.

“I started exploring different companies that provide a simplified solution for blending multiple projectors,” noted Hartman. “I found Scalable Display Technologies through Unreal Engine. Scalable’s software integrates with Unreal Engine, so I contacted the company for a license trial to begin testing the functionality. From my initial conversation, Scalable’s sales and technical support team has been extremely helpful and accommodating. They worked with me to ensure everything worked seamlessly before we purchased a software license. Their team has gone far beyond the role of a traditional salesperson to ensure we selected the appropriate solution for our specific needs.”

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Hartman added, “I required a solution that would provide a complete overlap of two projectors for high dynamic range and high dynamic resolution. Additionally, we needed to overlap two projectors for a wider screen. It’s been amazing to see the student’s reaction to the software. Scalable’s software has been straightforward to integrate and provided efficient, quick and simple results. Their automatic calibration is an important feature because it’s easy to use. Still, it provides the students with hands-on experience with the technology they will likely be re-introduced to in the future.”

The result was successful at all levels. The immersive virtual production system provides WWU with a high-quality, cost-effective solution. “I’ve talked with many studios and each of them has started their virtual production practice with projection and have built up to full LED displays,” explained Hartman. “Our students can learn the system and, as production companies scale up, they have the fundamentals to understand the technology. The actual practice between LED displays and projection is the same. There’s a slight difference in mapping, but the virtual production aspect is virtually the same.”

Hartman added, “Scalable has enabled us to introduce virtual production to our students at a cost-effective price point. It’s the perfect solution for film, TV and media programs that don’t have the budget for multiple LED displays. They can be replaced with projectors to create an effective solution for virtual production. It’s easy for students to grasp the technology while providing them with the hands-on experience they will likely require.”

Scalable provides industry-leading applications incorporating patented algorithms to create an easy-to-use, cost-effective solution for warping and blending high-resolution displays on screens of unlimited geometry and size. Scalable produces groundbreaking software that automatically calibrates images’ geometry, color and intensity across multiple projectors, resulting in a single, seamless digital display. With Scalable, there are no limits to the size or the resolution of displays created with their software tools.

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