Author - Marine Lelièvre - VP Strategy & Marketing  •  PopcornFX  •  Persistant Studios 

Montreal, Qc, Canada, February, 2018 - Persistant Studios, market leader in real-time VFX with its middleware solution PopcornFX, provide an inside look at the full VFX production process on the VR Demo "Experience - Advanced Creative Productivity", that they presented at the Montréal video game summit (MIGS) on December 12th and 13th, 2017 in partnership with CDRIN & Vicon. 

The VR Demo "Experience - Advanced Creative Productivity" at MIGS 2017 consisted of two parts:

Part one included the capture of the user's head and shoulders (bust) by the photogrammetry system, as well as technical explanations of the automation circuit. The second part was more immersive and focused on participation. It consisted of a virtual reality experiment where, thanks to the precise motion capture, users could navigate in an environment and interact with it in a fluid way. At the end of the experiment, participants could, through motion capture, paint a bust from a selection. Busts available were those captured by the photogrammetry volume throughout the event period - with a delay between capture and automatic integration into the game engine.

The innovative elements in this VR experience, presented with our partners CDRIN and Vicon at MIGS, were:

  1. Photogrammetry with automation of the process from capture to final creation of a 3D model.
  2. The bridge developed between the video game engine (UE4 in this case) and 3D models of busts that are integrated automatically in real time in the VR demo, as soon as the treatment of the bust was completed.
  3. Finally, concerning the VR demo itself, the real-time use of high-fidelity motion capture for hands, to enable a greater range of motion for the user. 

To complete the VR demo in only a few weeks, PopcornFX, CDRIN and Vicon teams had to coordinate their production schedules and work really closely. Persistant Studios created all the visual effects for this VR demo using PopcornFX (then integrated in UE4).

The VFX production was divided into three steps, explained Loriane Kevin, VFX Artist at PopcornFX:

  1. The prototyping phase, validating first visuals, the functional aspect, and aiming to integrate visual effects quickly to link them to the gameplay;
  2. Improvement: FX Artists enhanced the aesthetics of the effects and added its attributes to customize it;
  3. Optimization phase, ensuring that the best performance was maintained throughout the project.

The customized effects delivered by PopcornFX, allowed CDRIN to:

  • Modify the visual appearance of the FX at their convenience,
  • Easily control how each effect impacted on performance, for example, by managing the number, opacity, or the materials applied to the particles.

The biggest VFX production piece for this VR demo was the dashboard interface; which was divided into three parts:

  1. The initial stage: the user activates the in-chair navigation that will guide them through the experience,
  2. The navigation: the user's position in the environment is displayed in real time,
  3. The customization of the bust: the user chooses the color and size of their brush, and also applies a rotation to the bust’s 3D model.

A unique feature of the interface is that it is a curved dashboard. This was made possible by the PopcornFX "attribute sampler system", which allows the application of curves that modify particles’ positions, thus enabling the individual management of the distortion of each effect. This interface was made of several FX, which are very easy to manipulate and customize.

During the experience, users could get their real-time position on the FX representation of the map in the 3D environment.

In addition, they could interact with sliders created in FX, allowing them to modify colors, their saturation, the size of the brush with which they could paint the bust; or play with the rotation and scale sliders to transform the bust.

For this VR demo, the focus was also on interactivity and streamlining the experience. PopcornFX was just the right solution for real-time VFX production, with its strongest attributes in effects optimization, customization and interaction, empowering the real-time technology pipeline.

During the demo, the capture of the bust was also reproduced as a hologram. This hologram of particles was built up gradually, giving the impression that the different parts were appearing in line with the photographs taken.

Environmental effects, such as ambient dust and dashboard dust, with which it was possible to interact in real-time, were also used to create the atmosphere of the experiment, as well as a scanner effect to visualize the first step of the demo when capturing the bust of the user.

This brand new partnership and this VR demo: "Experience - Advanced Creative Productivity", developed in just a few weeks for MIGS 2017, was a success for CDRIN, Persistant Studios / PopcornFX and Vicon.

The demonstration received a lot of great professional feedback during the showcase by users; included comments on the efficiency of the real-time technology production pipeline, combining:

  • Photogrammetry system 
  • Motion capture 
  • Hand tracking VR experience 
  • Real-time FX interaction 
  • Automatic game engine integration
  • Fluid navigation & environment interaction

This experience, based on the optimization of production chains (photogrammetry, performance capture, visual effects, VR, real-time FX), aimed among other things, to present in more detail the skills and specialties of the partners, to offer the entertainment industry a new level of efficiency and quality of development, and to fulfill increasing demands from the game, film and XR industries.

Credits VR Demo: "Experience - Advanced Creative Productivity" MIGS 2017

  • Hand tracking VR experience by CDRIN,
  • All visual effects created by Persistant Studios using PopcornFX and integrated in UE4, 
  • Motion capture system by Vicon.