Posts by Lesley Klassen

Canadian Companies at Media Summit NYC

- by Lesley Klassen

Digital Hollywood Media Summit New York is a two-day conference on immersive technologies and digital media that is held in LA, New York and Las Vegas. Nick DeMartino, an investor and key organizer of IdeaBoost , a Canadian Film Centre run accelerator, asked The Campfire Union to participate on a panel with other companies working in immersive entertainment from the North.

It was an honour to participate and connect with other leading VR and 360 video companies on the panel. It is amazing to see what is happening in the Canadian VR scene. Sometimes, when your head is down working on your own projects, you miss all the great work that is happening right here in Canada. All the people on our panel were doing great things so here is a run down on who is doing what.

I remember when all the buzz about the Sleepy Hollow 360 experience came out, but I didn't know it was made by Secret Location , a Toronto-based digital media company that produced the work and won an Emmy to boot. CJ from Secret Location shared some insight into their process and how his company uses an agile approach to filmmaking. They are working on adapting a book into VR and understand how to extend traditional media in the immersive space.

In 2014, I attended SXSW Interactive and they had a games expo, which for me was the highlight of the festival. At the time, we were just getting into VR and I remember seeing a captivating VR experience called Paper Dude. Using a microcontroller, a Microsoft Kinect and a DK1, Paper Dude was Globacore's take on the 2D NES classic Paper Boy, manifest into a real life experience. Using a bicycle to power the game and a Kinect camera, the player is fully immersed in the experience. That is the kind of work Globacore does. They create physical arcade-like experiences that use a blend of emerging technologies. They just finished a 4-person multiplayer spaceship co-op game. Super cool!

Ian Tuason from the Canadian Film Centre is a 360 video filmmaker who has managed to garner over 8 million views from four 360 shorts that he created. He crowdsourced feedback from his viewers and quickly began to build an understanding of 360 filmmaking. Now he is helping other filmmakers learn and transition from traditional single screen filmmaking to 360 video filmmaking.

Kim Davidson from Side FX are the creators of hugely successful 3D software package Houdini that was used on Star Wars and countless other big-budget films in Hollywood and around the world. They are working on stereoscopically rendered 3D experiences and also have a plugin that is available for Unity 3D and Unreal Engine. Kim was part of the digital effects industry right at its inception. Kim paid homage to the original View-Master as one of this first truly immersive entertainment experience, which for many of us, was ours too.

One of the revelations I took away from the conference is that Canadian companies are leaders in the immersive entertainment space and we hold our own against our US partners to the south. At the end of the day, it's about collaboration and sharing knowledge anyway, and borders have nothing to do with that.


​Lost Cities at MWC and a Whole Lot More

- by Lesley Klassen

Mobile World Congress (MWC) ended on Thursday and it was truly a whirlwind experience. The only other conference that I've attended that I can compare it to is GDC, which takes place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. MWC is nine GDCs in size. That’s right, nine! I only managed to visit 5 halls of 9 because I didn’t have the time.

As a virtual reality game studio I wasn’t sure that MWC was the right fit for us, and in fact, I would say that this would be the only time I would go. Virtual Reality was the story of the conference and being a VR company at this year's conference was fortuitous. It's one of the times being a small fish in a big pond was advantageous. We also enjoyed the benefits of working with ICT West which represented a consortium of Canadian companies participating in the Canada pavilion. They were very supportive and connected us to trade commissioners with connections around the globe, set up meetings and provided us PR.

There were very few VR companies in attendance, and I suspect that this will change as VR becomes a bigger player in the mobile market. We attended the conference because Oculus had a media showcase that included Lost Cities. We knew it was an opportunity to garner some press for our game. While I was there I did check out the other VR offerings from Lenovo, LG and to see the new Gear 360 camera that Samsung announced.


LG360VR LG’s VR offering was really bad. I mean really bad. There was so much light leak that I was straining to enjoy the experience. On top of that, it was built on the Google Cardboard SDK which means that it has at least 100 ms of latency. The experience they presented was a rollercoaster ride that was synchronized to hydraulic chairs. I was having more fun bouncing around on the chairs than riding the virtual rollercoaster. There is no way someone could sustain a VR experience in these HMDs. The only innovation they brought to the table was individual focus rings for each eye making it accessible to people with an eye stigma. I think the Gear VR should adopt something like this.

ANTVR for Lenovo

It was awkward to insert my phone into this contraption but it's much nicer that the LG360VR. The one thing I couldn’t find was a button to interact with the content. Maybe I missed something, but from what I could tell it looks like you need a Bluetooth controller to use it. It's a very nice 360 photo and image viewer.

Free GearVR’s for S7 Pre-orders

Samsung announced that they will be shipping free Gear VRs with pre-orders of the S7 phone. This was an extremely important announcement for us because we are about to launch a Gear VR game and having a larger market to sell our first game will allow us to bring in more revenue. Whoo! There were 20 million pre-orders for the S6 so I anticipate there will be a similar number for the S7. According to Samsung, the free GearVR HMDs will be available while supplies last. I have heard from some credible sources that it could mean between 3 – 5 million Gear VRs in the market in 2016. It's a good time to launch a Gear VR game.

Gear 360

The big opportunity in 360 video is user generated content. Currently, there are limited options for capturing 360 content and Samsung made a big play at MWC by announcing their Gear 360 camera. It was under glass so I didn't get a chance to try it. I think all these early cameras will eventually be included with mobile phones. That will allow everyone to share 360 experiences, which will open the flood gates for 360 video content.

Press at MWC (Updated)

One the wonderful things for The Campfire Union was the press we received while attending the conference. It was very encouraging for us to know that people are interested in our game.

We hope that when we launch our players will feel the same way. Now I am preparing for the Digital Hollywood Media Summit New York panel and then off to VRDC at GDC. Then I get to sleep!


Speaking at All Access

- by Lesley Klassen

Les is presenting with some really amazing folks today at All Access, a film and television conference hosted and organized by On Screen Manitoba. This conference brings many national and provincial filmmakers, broadcasters, and production companies together to develop business opportunities in the film and television industry.

Les is talking about our experience with Creation Lab, a joint venture between On Screen Manitoba, New Media Manitoba, the National Film Board and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. We developed an HTC Vive interactive exhibit that transported users into a 1960's classroom to take a Stanford Binet test that was used to label kids as inferior or normal. He is really looking forward to sharing our experience collaborating and developing this Vive experience.


Thank You Team!

- by Lesley Klassen

Oculus Connect was a really important experience for me and it wouldn't have been nearly as amazing if it were not for the team and project partners we have at The Campfire Union. I submitted a presentation and was asked to speak on how we made our table top in Lost Cities. The Campfire team helped me every step of the way. They sent me new builds of our upcoming game, solved presentation issues on the spot, helped me rehearse, and they held down the fort while continuing to make an awesome game.

Rachael, Lux, Ryan, Vinay, Liem, Sam, Landon, Graham, Olaf, and Steve, THANK YOU for being an amazing group to work with!

Here is my talk at Oculus Connect 2. I hope you enjoy it.

At Connect, I met some amazing people who are pouring their hearts into virtual reality. The community that is emerging is truly special and the vibe at the conference really brought everyone together to celebrate how we've all grown. I am grateful for all the meaningful connections.

While growing up, I never thought I would be able to fully play with my imagination like I get to with virtual reality. I struggled to find fulfilment in my work because I always felt like I was missing out on something. Now, I don’t feel that way any more. Now, I get to play. For real.

My favourite experience at Oculus Connect this year was Medium. Medium is a VR art creation tool that lets you sculpt in 3D space. Think of it as the 3D version of MS Paint. Obviously, I made a cutesy car fused with a Christmas tree, topped with the world’s first 4-sided star. I only had 10 minutes to explore the app. Rather than diving into the relatively complex interface and trying out the many features it has to offer, I decided to just start sculpting. Creating with the Touch controllers, coupled with Medium’s sculpting tools unlocked a world of possibilities.

For me, it is an interface designer’s playground, a prototyping tool, a meditative practice, and a creative outlet. Medium showed me that VR fits wonderfully as both a media consumption and creation platform. That bodes well for a VR company like ours.

So hats off to The Campfire team, the meaningful connections from Oculus Connect, and to the future of VR.


Deconstructing Depth Cues in Blocked In

- by Lesley Klassen

Part of my job as Chief Innovation Officer at The Campfire Union is to research concepts in virtual reality. Inspired from the article "Making Great VR: Six Lessons Learned From I Expect You To Die" by Jesse Schell, I decided to do a crash course in depth cues by de-constructing them in Blocked In from The Shoebox Diorama.

Here is a 10-minute video exploration I made on the topic.

I based my research the following two articles I found on depth cues.

Here is a summary of the concepts presented in the Blocked In deconstruction.

Accommodation is when you look at an object up close, objects in the background are blurred out. This works well when you are looking at objects 2 meters or closer. Edit: Accommodation does not work in VR. It can be simulated, but only when eye tracking becomes part of the VR hardware spec.

Convergence is measured by how much your eyes rotate inward when looking at objects. This works well within 10 meters. You brain creates depth by analyzing this eye movement.

Parallax works with one eye or two. When you move your head you will notice that an object closer to you moves faster than an object far away. Many side scrollers use parallax to create depth.

Binocular disparity takes advantage of the approximate 6.5 cm distance between our eyes. Our right and left eye see the world from slightly different perspectives. When you combine these perspectives, the brain produces depth.

Linear perspective can be observed when looking at straight lines like the edges of roof tops, sidewalks, or roads that converge into the horizon. The brain uses linear perspective to understand the height of a tall building, or the distance of a street or sidewalk. This can be simulated on paper through one, two, or three point perspective.

Distance and size are related. Objects far way are perceived as smaller than objects that are up close.

The size of common objects is another way we understand scale and distance. If you show common objects like mugs, pencils, and sandwiches in a scene, for example, our brain will start building depth cues base on its understanding of the common object size based on prior experiences.

A texture gradient is the management of texture detail in relation to the distance of an object. For example, objects up close need to have detailed textures because our brains expect detail when up close. Objects that are far away can be smoother and less detailed because we would normally see less detail in faraway objects.

When an object occludes another object this is called overlapping. My computer monitor is occluding the wall behind the monitor. The wall is occluding the tree outside my office. The tree is occluding the street below. When objects overlap, the brain know that the closest object is the one that is not occluded by anything. The brain uses overlapping to build depth.

Aerial perspective is observable when looking at objects that are very far away. When looking at something that is close to the horizon or a significant distance away, it looks like it’s behind a haze. This is because there is particulate in the air. Our brain will use this as a depth cue as well.

Shades and Shadows. If we know where the light source is, we can understand that objects that are lit and are not in shadow are closer to the light source than objects are have fallen completely into shadow. Our brain uses this information to understand which objects are closer and farther away.

This is a quick overview of the types of depth cues that can help you understand and construct more compelling virtual environments. Hope you enjoyed learning, and stay tuned for more explorations like this in the future.

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