Virtual reality startup 8i has hired Big Frame founder and former CEO Steve Raymond as its new president of studios. In his new role, he will help the company grow its presence in Los Angeles and sign up customers and production partners for the company’s volumetric virtual reality (VR) capture technology.
“I looked at several different industries, but this industry really pulled at me to the point where I felt like I had no choice,” Raymond said in a blog post Friday.
8i hails from New Zealand, and has developed a kind of capture technology that allows the company to record 3D holograms of persons or artifacts, and then recreate them in a VR environment. In many ways, 8i’s approach is the exact opposite the way most VR video is being shot. 360-degree videos are usually being recorded with a multi-camera rig capable of capturing everything around it. The result is a video in which the viewer can look into every direction, but not easily change position or interact with its environment.
8i on the other hand records people in a green-screen studio, with 40 cameras strategically placed around them to get as much footage from every angle as possible. The recorded footage is rendered to fill in any blind spots, and the resulting holographic asset can then be imported into a computer-generated 3D scene. This makes it possible for users of higher-end VR headsets like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to actually walk around these actors and look at them from every angle, leading to a much higher level of immersion.
8i’s technology is not perfect; during a demonstration for Variety earlier this year, the outlines of these 3D holograms still at times looked a bit fuzzy at times, and some of the blind spots that had been filled in through rendering didn’t seem quite natural. However, the effect of being able to walk around the actor in a movie was profound, and made it easy to overlook some of those imperfections.
That’s apparently also what some of 8i’s first partners thought. The company also announced Friday that it will produce a VR experience for L’Oreal Studio, and also help River Studios and the Emblemartic Group to enhance their VR experiences with volumetric capture. Finally, 8i’s technology is being used by a Realtra, a new production company that will specialize in volumetric capture for VR.
As for 8i, the startup is getting ready to launch a bigger production facility in Culver City, California this summer. “We need to put the gear for capturing volumetric video into the hands of thousands of creators – first professionals, then everyone else,” said Raymond.
8i raised a $13.5 million Series A round of funding from RRE Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments and Dolby Family Ventures and others last October.