Outlook: The shift to volumetric video
Ewan Johnson
Issue: November/December 2021

Outlook: The shift to volumetric video

Over the next few years, the nature of how we view video is going to change. In fact, it’s already begun.  
For decades, the evolution of video has been fairly linear: Updates have brought crisper images in bigger formats, while distribution possibilities grew. There have been attempts to go beyond that pattern (3DTV, for example), but the progression has been somewhat predictable, albeit incredible. 

But advancements in technology have allowed us to go further. With volumetric video we can now create and distribute content that allows us to experience the subject matter. In many ways, it’s the closest video technology to how we actually, physically view the world. We don’t just see in HD or in 60fps, we see in terms of spatial alignment. When we look at something head on, we know that we can step to the side and see it from a different angle. Volumetric video is built around that idea.

Volumetric video has seen steady growth over the last few years in the form of holograms, interactive spatial videos, and as tools used to create everything from digital humans to game characters to VFX. It’s used in live sporting events to show replays from every angle, while bands have created recordings of themselves to virtually appear next to fans. Meanwhile, VFX artists have pushed the boundaries of virtual production, and that’s just the start.

When we launched Arcturus in 2016, the founders came from companies like Google and YouTube (I personally came from Pixar and Dreamworks), and we knew that this was the direction video was heading. But the volumetric video market has accelerated faster than we hoped. There are now capture labs all around the world that can record performances and objects, and with tools like our own HoloSuite to edit and distribute volumetric video, creators have more opportunities to embrace the format than ever before. The pandemic further helped to fuel the demand, giving companies and studios the chance to experiment with volumetric video and explore ways to expand their offerings. We’re just starting to see the results of that experimentation. 

In the very near future — we’re talking months — volumetric video will be used extensively in several AAA entertainment projects. Soon, anyone with the right type of camera will be able to create their own. (Imagine user-generated holograms on platforms like TikTok!) Live sporting events will allow viewers to control the angle in realtime, and concert broadcasts will let audiences experience shows as they sit next to the band, or play in a virtual world where the audience can interact with the music. AR is also changing the very nature of ecommerce, and digital character creators will have a new set of tools. Best of all, it will all be available on the mobile device and desktop monitor we already have — no additional purchase required. 

The shift has already begun, and in the next year it will be apparent to everyone. And we couldn’t be more excited! 

Ewan Johnson is the Chief Product Officer of Arcturus (https://arcturus.studio), the creator of HoloSuite, a capture-agnostic post production platform for volumetric video.