3-D news immersion: It’s almost like being there
July 24, 2014 - Original post date
One of the most memorable events from my childhood was watching the Indian cricket team win the 1985 Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket on TV. The novelty of color television and excitement of the occasion transported me and my friends to the Melbourne cricket ground. Back then, we relied more on our imagination for experiencing the sensation of “being there” in a mediated environment whether it be sports on TV or movies.
Fast forward 29 years, and now the Oculus Rift promises to make virtual reality both affordable and accessible to the average consumer. Display devices like the Rift and 3-D television enhance sensory immersion in addition to the psychological immersion produced by the media content.
In the last few decades, the entertainment industry has made great advances in 3-D technology with computer-generated animations like the Toy Story series, or 3-D movies like Avatar that seamlessly mix video and computer-generated footage. Today other professions have incorporated these advances into their workflow. Architectural visualization, for example, borrows both software technology and workflow techniques from the entertainment industry to create 3-D representations of buildings prior to their construction. They help end users get a feel for the experience of the building from both outside and inside. At the Immersive Visualization Lab (iLab) in Architectural Studies at the University of Missouri, we use animation and gaming software, motion capture equipment and 3-D cameras among other tools to advance architectural visualization techniques.
While 3-D content and immersive technologies hold great potential for journalism, the profession has been slow to embrace them. My colleagues in journalism tell me about the fast pace of the newsroom, its zero tolerance for error and its aversion to risk. The news industry appears to rely on tried and tested approaches to technology integration. A related challenge is the shortage of 3-D content. This can be attributed to the need for advanced production skills and specialized equipment, lengthy production time, and the diversity of platforms, as well as formats for delivering the 3-D content.
During the next two semesters as a Reynolds Fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, I will explore the potential of advanced 3-D technologies for journalism and advertising. I hope to build on our ongoing explorations in the iLab. We are currently using technologies and workflows that enable one to capture reality in three dimensions using devices such as 3-D cameras and scanners (often referred to as "reality capture" technologies). For our ongoing projects, we create computer-generated 3-D content using animation and gaming software and present them across a variety of stereoscopic 3-D displays. These technologies enable visual content to be presented in a more innovative, interactive and immersive manner for news and advertising.
I intend to approach my project in three phases. First, I’ll begin mapping the emerging 3-D technology landscape and existing workflows. A related goal in this phase is to identify scenarios in journalism and advertising where 3-D technologies hold potential. In the second phase, I will examine workflows for producing 3-D content and identify constraints of time and effort, specialized skills, and information exchange between production software. This will inform development and demonstration of scenario prototypes in the last phase. Through these prototypes, I intend to demonstrate story situations where the 3-D experience is a relevant and appropriate technology platform to present the 3-D content.
I am eager to hear your suggestions for story scenarios to test 3-D content as well as your thoughts on where it will be appropriate to use 3-D content.
My work as a Reynolds Fellow is synergistic with a Mizzou Advantage research grant I’m working on with colleagues in the Missouri School of Journalism. We’re exploring the role of 3-D in developing media of the future. I am excited at the possibility of bringing together my interests and experience that cuts across architectural visualization, media psychology and human-computer interaction. Please watch this space for project updates.
As a Reynolds Fellow, Bimal Balakrishan, director of the Immersive Visualization Lab at the University of Missouri, is exploring the potential applications (and challenges) of 3-D technology for the journalism and advertising industries. Balakrishnan says various 3-D technologies could enable visual content to be presented in a more innovative, interactive and immersive manner. Reach Balakrishnan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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