Arcturus: Building Volumetric Video Ecosystem

Arcturus' Ewan Johnson discussed the company's products for creating, editing, and streaming volumetrically captured performers, spoke about collaborations with various companies, and shared what Arcturus' business model is.

Introduction

My name is Ewan Johnson, and I consider myself very fortunate to be involved in nearly all aspects of Arcturus as Chief Product Officer. In my role, I work closely with our product, support, and sales teams. Together, we focus on providing the best customer service. I often help our clients plan the creative approach or help design an innovative use of volumetric video for their projects. Over the years, I’ve contributed many ideas.

As far as my background goes, watching the original Star Wars got me interested in filmmaking. When I got to college, I studied printmaking, photography, and eventually digital animation, and I received a bachelor of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and to pay my way through art school I taught myself how to program – I am self-taught in programming C++, Objective-C, and early HTML, including Perl and PHP. I ended up creating some of the first digital tools for transferring film media to digital assets, for production on Flame and the earliest versions of the Avid.

Developing those skills led me to Pixar at a time when they had under 100 employees. I joined as a technical director on Toy Story, and from there, I helped build the cinematography department.

Arcturus

Since its founding in 2016, Arcturus has focused on the volumetric video ecosystem. From the start, we recognized the power of volumetric video and realized that we would need specialized tools to assist and support artists with this new medium. Our collective experience put us in an ideal position to be leaders and pioneers in this field.

Ewan Johnson brought 20 years of developing technical cinematography pipelines for Pixar and Dreamworks Animation; Devin Horsman had years of technical experience in commercializing specialized research; Andy Stack came from YouTube and 360VR; our CEO, Kamal Mistry, brought a storied resume that included Autodesk, Netflix and Uber ATG, and we’ve grown our ranks with the some of the best and brightest developers in the years since.

We are the best team in the world to solve the problems that creators and producers face with volumetric videos. We are currently 40 employees strong across several countries, with offices throughout North America.

Collaboration with Companies

We sell licenses to HoloSuite, but we also work closely with many of our clients, and over the last few years we’ve been involved in several unique projects. Because of our extensive experience in the post-production of volumetric video, we are frequently called upon to act as advisors and consultants for companies exploring this space, especially those building a new "Proof of Concept" to illustrate the value of volumetric video for their organizations.

While this is still a new visual medium, its roots remain firmly in traditional video. C-suites quickly recognize the transformation that’s coming. These are still relatively early days though, and these technologies can be both difficult to master and costly. It requires commitment, along with a vision for how this technology will benefit a company's bottom line.

Well-Known Clients

We work with clients of all sizes, all around the world. A few of our more well-known clients include Canon, Verizon, Santander, Samsung, and Scanline, to name a few. We are the world’s leading experts on volumetric video post-production and streaming and our clients – big and small – need help in understanding this new medium and ecosystem. We are here to assist them and accelerate their learning curve to prepare them for a volumetric future. 

HoloSuite Products

HoloSuite was created to serve creators and developers by providing efficient tools for editing and compressing volumetric video. Compared to traditional computer graphics techniques, volumetric video is more efficient to create while also providing more realistic results. 
 
However, this realism comes at a cost, utilizing traditional rigging and animation techniques, the data is very difficult to work with. To overcome these limitations we developed a suite of algorithms that enable artists to work efficiently across captures that consist of temporally incoherent meshes and textures. This includes the ability to edit a single frame and apply that change across the length of the capture, to rig the capture to enable post-capture editing and highly efficient compression.
 
HoloSuite’s key advantage to game developers is that it provides a highly efficient playback SDK and codec for incorporating realistic volumetric captures into their games. The blending and looping tools combined with automatic rigging enables you to have full human performance playing back in real-time in your game engine.  

Arcturus' Business Model

Arcturus follows a SAAS model. HoloSuite is sold as an annual subscription with as-needed additional costs for streaming and cloud computing.  As we are working with a new medium, users need time to fully grok all the elements working together to deliver a project. Our users with a 3D animation background are often the quickest to absorb our post-production workflows and capitalize on the tools that are available to them.  

Arcturus' Roadmap

Arcturus will continue its efforts to educate and inform the public – especially the media production community – about volumetric video and its full ecosystem. We have been attending a variety of conferences and expositions, and we are actively posting tutorial videos on YouTube. We’ve uploaded nearly 100 clips so far, and that number will continue to grow. Blog posts and webinars are on the way as well. We are also working with the media to create awareness and understanding of volumetric video and illustrate the variety of use cases. 

Ewan Johnson, Chief Product Officer at Arcturus

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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