Virtual Studio Overview
This article gives an overview of virtual studios - what they are and why they are useful.
The primary goal of the virtual studio research at the LML is to broaden the boundaries of current technology in mixing real video input with 3D graphics.

In television and movie productions, each video frame is composed of the real video from the actors and the background set. Finding the right background could be solved by flying to the right place, which could be costly and might be ill-timed due to unpredictable weather conditions; or could be created physically from wood, plaster, plastic, and foam materials. Creating the physical sets requires substantial time, storage space, and sometimes the sets are not sufficiently realistic.

The other option is to capture the video footage of the actors in front of a "blue screen," which would be replaced by a computer generated scene. This option is the essence of virtual studios.

The advantages of the "blue screen" options are (1) the backgrounds require no physical space and can be re-used on-demand; (2) the backgrounds are not limited to what exists in reality - e.g. there is no location on earth where the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park could be found. With virtual studio technology, the movie director is limited only by his imagination.

This technology is timely due to several important factors. First, high quality, low cost video input became feasible with the arrival of the DV (digital video) cameras and purely digital video input devices.

Second, it was also essential to have sophisticated 3D virtual worlds which requires substantial graphics rendering power. Current technology has allowed inexpensive 3D game cards to have similar 3D graphics power as the professional workstations from 5 years ago.

Third, the connection between the 3D graphics card and the real time video input had to be enhanced considerably. Up to a few years ago, the only machines which were capable of sustained, reliable, video bandwidth over the system bus were specialty workstations from vendors such as SGI. Currently, the AGP 4X bus appears to be sufficient at a bandwidth of 1 GB/s.

The initial impetus of this project came out of the European ESPRIT WEPTEL project for developing innovative weather presentations. If you watch television in the Netherlands, it is probable that you have already seen one of the results of the WEPTEL project which is used on a regular basis by NOS (the largest television station in the Netherlands)

Research and development on the virtual studio system has been promising and an advanced version of the system is expected to be released soon.

Some of the people who have been involved with this project include (alphabetically) Roger Fujii, Michael Lew, Ernst Lindoorn, Jelle Westenbroek, Harry Wijshoff, and Lex Wolters.

Media Lab Overview
LIACS Homepage
MM Conf
ACM Multimedia
Science Direct
IEEE Library
LIACS Publications
ACM Digital Library