Inworld Raises $50M to Create AI-Powered Virtual Characters

Virtual character developer platform Inworld AI has raised $50 million in a Series A funding round led by Section 32 and Intel Capital. The Mountain View-based startup — one of six companies chosen to participate in the 2022 Disney Accelerator — will create virtual characters for games, the metaverse and other entertainment and marketing applications. Because it is focused on providing an interior life, or “mind,” Inworld AI is platform agnostic, with APIs that work across Unity, Unreal Engine, Omniverse and others. Another convenient feature: it lets developers build characters by describing them in natural language. Continue reading Inworld Raises $50M to Create AI-Powered Virtual Characters

‘Fathead’ Team Explores Virtual Production During NAB Panel

Production in the cloud, virtual workflows and remote work solutions were hot topics at the 2022 NAB Show in Las Vegas last month. Erik Weaver, director of adaptive production at the Entertainment Technology Center@USC, discussed new tools and techniques implemented during the production of ETC’s “Fathead,” a short film that experimented with in-camera real-time VFX and LED stages. Weaver joined “Fathead” virtual production producer Tom Thudiyanplackal, the short’s post-production supervisor James Blevins, and the global lead for Film/TV production partners at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Jack Wenzinger for a compelling NAB panel discussion, “ICVFX and the Cloud.” Continue reading ‘Fathead’ Team Explores Virtual Production During NAB Panel

Sony and Kirkbi Invest $2 Billion in Epic Games’ Meta Vision

Epic Games has raised $2 billion in a funding round that will fuel the company’s ambition to build a metaverse. Investments of $1 billion each came from existing shareholder Sony Group and Kirkbi, the family-owned company that owns 75 percent of the Lego Group. Epic continues to have a single class of common stock outstanding and remains controlled by founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, who launched the company in 1991. The fresh funds — the largest game company raise since 2002, according to PitchBook Data — positions Epic’s post-money equity valuation at $31.5 billion, the company says. Continue reading Sony and Kirkbi Invest $2 Billion in Epic Games’ Meta Vision

HPA Tech Retreat: Bridge Between Creatives and Tech Firms

As the Renaissance was a reaction to the Dark Ages that preceded it, so too the entertainment industrial complex finds itself on the brink of a fruitful new era of technological and creative achievement triggered by COVID-19. The need for remote production has encouraged a cross pollination of new tools and techniques that will likely lead to significant change in the next era of media production. Roaring back to an in-person event in Rancho Mirage last week after hosting a virtual summit in 2021, the HPA Tech Retreat 2022 showcased the groundbreaking exchange between content-makers and tech providers. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Bridge Between Creatives and Tech Firms

Epic Pitches Big Tent in Metaverse with Bandcamp Purchase

Epic Games has purchased online music store and community Bandcamp. Citing a shared “mission of building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money,” the blockbuster game developer explained in a statement that Bandcamp will play an important role in the gamer’s “vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.” It’s an interesting strategic move. Competitor Electronic Arts has had success with music, getting its “Star Wars” scores released and creating hits through its “FIFA” and “Madden NFL” games. Continue reading Epic Pitches Big Tent in Metaverse with Bandcamp Purchase

ETC Pushes Boundaries of Virtual Production with ‘Fathead’

“A world without synthetic humans is not an option anymore,” the audience at the 2022 HPA Tech Retreat in Rancho Mirage were advised by “Fathead” virtual production producer Tom Thudiyanplackal. Equally unimaginable is a world without synthetic sets, as was obvious at Tuesday’s daylong HPA Super Session, themed “Immerse Yourself in Virtual Production.” “Fathead,” the fifth short from the USC Entertainment Technology Center’s Annual ETC Innovation and Technology Grant, was all about in-camera VFX, captured in real-time on a stage lined and lidded with LEDs — 280-degrees around and on the ceiling, too. Continue reading ETC Pushes Boundaries of Virtual Production with ‘Fathead’

NEP Acquires Companies to Open Virtual Production Division

NEP Group is buying three companies in order to offer virtual production (VP) services for films, TV and interactive exhibits. Prysm Collective, Lux Machina and Halon Entertainment will form NEP Virtual Studios, a new division that, says NEP Group chief strategy officer Carrie Galvin, will be “a technical and creative services partner for content creators around the globe.” She added that NEP’s existing virtual production tools “start at the creative stage” and include special effects, augmented reality, and LED stages. Continue reading NEP Acquires Companies to Open Virtual Production Division

Korean Virtual Production Stage Features Samsung’s The Wall

Samsung has partnered with CJ ENM, a major Korean entertainment media production company to build a virtual production facility in South Korea. CJ ENM, which previously inked a deal with Epic Games to use its Unreal Game engine, will rely on Samsung’s next-generation MicroLED display, also known as “The Wall.” The facility will open later this year in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Because of the savings offered to film and television via virtual production, the Göteborg Film Festival predicted it will be the norm in filmmaking in five years. Continue reading Korean Virtual Production Stage Features Samsung’s The Wall

HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 2

In a conversation on cloud-enabled virtual production during the HPA Tech Retreat, Jack Wenzinger of Amazon Web Services’ Global M&E Partners vertical asked how those interested in virtual production can retool existing skills. ETC@USC senior consultant Erik Weaver stated that participating in Epic Games’ Unreal Fellowship program was “an eye-opening experience.” “Understanding what a blueprint is and how to put things in a timeline gave me a fundamental understanding,” he said. “I highly recommend watching all the videos you can on Unreal and start walking through the tutorials.” Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 2

HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 1

Jack Wenzinger of Amazon Web Services’ Global M&E Partners vertical moderated a discussion during the HPA Tech Retreat on what’s been learned about cloud-enabled virtual production during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also noted that Epic Games’ Unreal Engine has published a field guide to virtual production that focuses on the work being done in pre-production and post. Joining the conversation was ETC@USC senior consultant Erik Weaver, Solstice Studios chief technology officer Edward Churchward and Mo-Sys Engineering technical director James Uren. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 1

HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Details Its Executive Coffee Program

During the HPA Tech Retreat, ETC Immersive Media Initiative program lead Phil Lelyveld presented highlights from the Entertainment Technology Center’s “Executive Coffee With…” program, a series of discussions between ETC industry members and USC students on a range of topics related to the future of entertainment. To date, executives from Verizon, Universal, Fox, Equinix, Vubiquity and Dolby have posed questions to the USC students, on topics from production during COVID-19 to the future of the theater experience. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Details Its Executive Coffee Program

Varjo Debuts High Resolution XR/VR Headsets for Enterprise

Finland-based Varjo debuted its third generation XR/VR headsets, the XR-3 and VR-3, respectively, which still target enterprises rather than consumers. The  company’s chief marketing officer Jussi Mäkinen stated that this version doubles its so-called human-eye resolution from the previous model and cuts the price in half. The Varjo XR-3 is priced at $5,495, with the Varjo subscription starting at $1,495 for the year. The Varjo VR-3 costs $3,195 with a one-year subscription starting at $795. Continue reading Varjo Debuts High Resolution XR/VR Headsets for Enterprise

Television Academy Live-Streams Engineering Emmy Awards

On October 29, the Television Academy celebrated the honorees of the 72nd Engineering Emmy Awards, live-streaming the ceremony from its website for the first time. The awards were announced on October 8, and the event was hosted by CBS “Criminal Minds” star Kirsten Vangsness for the fifth consecutive year. The Engineering Emmys are awarded to individuals, companies or organizations for technical developments that improve or invent things that “greatly impacts the production, recording, transmission or reception of TV.” Continue reading Television Academy Live-Streams Engineering Emmy Awards

Sony Debuts Its Spatial Reality Display with Glasses-Free 3D

Sony introduced its Spatial Reality Display aimed at professional users in the content creation industry and potential future applications for consumers. The display looks like an ordinary computer monitor but is fixed on a 45-degree recline with a triangular frame and combines a 15.6-inch screen with micro optical lens coating and an eye-tracking camera. The display offers 4K resolution, with the pixels split into two 2K arrays for left and right eyes. It also offers 3D images without glasses. Continue reading Sony Debuts Its Spatial Reality Display with Glasses-Free 3D

Virtual Production Is on Track to Replace More Costly Tools

In virtual production, filmmakers marry actors and digital environments in real time. Now, in the United Kingdom, video game developer Rebellion Developments has completed what it says is the first “all virtual” film, the five-minute “Percival,” which was broadcast on Rebellion’s YouTube channel. The company built a studio to create more such virtual productions out of its library of intellectual property. Rebellion said “Percival” was shot entirely in front of large flat screen displays connected to PCs running Unreal Engine. Continue reading Virtual Production Is on Track to Replace More Costly Tools