The founder of the factual indie If Not Us Films, David Herman, has launched a new company that will specialise in providing photogrammetry services for immersive virtual reality (VR) productions and VFX shots.
Metapixel Studios, based in Brighton, will use a custom-built mobile 3D scanning system to generate photorealistic interactive visuals of people, cars and other objects that can be used in Herman’s own productions and by third-party VR film-makers, VFX houses and games developers.
Photogrammetry, also known as image-based modelling, is the process of capturing stills photographs of people and objects from multiple viewpoints and then stitching them together to create lifelike 3D renditions.
The rig that Metapixel will use cost £500,000 to construct and consists of 105 Nikon D810 36- megapixel cameras capturing raw images. It will provide the capacity for 12-shot sequential shooting and use proprietary software for capture and rendering.
Herman founded the firm with photojournalist and artist Robbie Cooper, a photogrammetry and 3D scanning expert who has worked on commercial projects for Nike and Duracell and on photogrammetry software and user experiences with Intel.
“We founded Metapixel out of a passion for film-making and the principle that virtual reality doesn’t need to be detached or lonely,” said Herman. “People are drawn to other people through traditional media, to share emotions, empathy, guidance and intimacy. However, without realistic renditions of real people, the same sense of engagement is lost. It was this requirement that led us to build a super high resolution rig for our productions as well as a tool for others to create next-generation entertainment.”
The creation of synthetic actors is one of the potential uses of the scanning system. To facilitate this, Metapixel is partnering with face rigging and animation companies. It is also conducting its own R&D, exploring how it can improve the capture of images of human hair, and has already developed what it considers to be a “more realistic” skin shader. Work is also being done on new composition techniques for inserting human characters into VR worlds.
Cooper, who says that “interactivity and presence” are important for VR content and that 360- degree video is “too limited” a format, added: “By combining scanned environments with our facilities to capture extreme high resolution data of people, this technology represents the next generation of storytelling.”
Herman’s executive producer credits with If Not Us Films include 14 Years On Death Row and A Fair Cop (BBC4).
He was also the exec on My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding for Firecracker Films (TLC) and has worked as a series producer and series director for Tiger Aspect, Wall to Wall, Mentorn and Impossible Pictures.