As part of our Focus on Augmented Reality, we recently had a chance to speak with industry leaders and broadcast solutions providers about the rapid evolution of augmented reality on broadcast television.
In this first roundtable, we address the current rate of adoption, how AR is best used in broadcast and the current technical challenges broadcasters face.
Where are we on the adoption curve for AR in broadcast?
“We see augmented reality and virtual sets are being adopted faster than ever especially at the local news level,” said Ronen Lasry of Full Mental Jacket. “Stations are asking for AR and understanding it as the first step towards more ambitious VR studio production such as hybrid studios and set extensions.”
“We have barely scratched the surface [at the local level], I would say less than 10% of stations are doing true AR Graphics and or VR Scenery,” said Mack McLaughlin of FX Design Group.
“We are seeing strong adoption for AR on the major broadcast networks, especially for special events such as elections and sports. The local broadcasters are beginning use AR for their newscasts as well but to a more limited scale. As the price for tracking systems comes down and local broadcasters become more adapt to effective storytelling with the tools, we expect to see a large amount of growth for the technology,” said Gerhard Lang, Vizrt’s Chief Engineering Officer.
“Broadcast is increasingly adopting AR for enhanced storytelling, allowing for better interaction between presenters and graphics objects and even remote locations,” said Miguel Churruca of Brainstorm Multimedia.
What is AR best used for in the world of broadcast?
“Breaking out of the traditional 16:9 format of story presentation to tell better stories,” said Lasry.
“Augmented Reality broadcast applications allow for the interaction between sets, talents and virtual objects, many of them created out of external data sources such as statistics, charts, bars, and many other. These provide visually engaging representations of the data and information which can then be better explained by the presenters placed on the set,” said Churruca.
“Augmented reality enables the broadcaster to change the look and feel of his studio environment and create compelling virtual set pieces to elevate production value, better engage viewers, and enhance your storytelling,” said Haim Halperin, Avid’s Senior Principal Product Manager for Virtual Studio, Augmented Reality and Tracking.
“AR is really about telling stories – as most graphics are. However, AR gives broadcasters an extra level of freedom to tell a complex story in a very visual way with the presenter driving the narrative since the AR graphics can be just in front of them,” said Lang.
“AR’s sweet spot will be graphical, allowing reporters to fully tell a story from all sides with 3D real-time graphics. We feel that AR will lead the way and VR will tag along as the systems will do both, once the AR is up and running, it will be much easier to then add VR elements to a newscast,” said McLaughlin.
“It opens studio space up in creative ways. Graphics can be as small as a model of a car on the news desk in front of the anchor, or massive, allowing the studio floor space to be used for large graphics and narratives,” added Lang.
What technical challenges limit AR at this time?
“AR graphics require camera movement to sell the effect to the viewers. Integrating and calibrating camera tracking systems is still a challenge despite some significant advances in the last few years,” noted Lasry.
“Apart from the quality of the graphics and backgrounds, the most important challenge is the integration and continuity of the whole scene,” said Churruca. “Having tracked cameras, remote locations and graphics moving accordingly, perfect integration, perspective matching and full broadcast continuity are paramount to provide the audience with a perfect viewing experience.”
“AR is not effective when not properly planned. To be effective, accurate tracking is essential; care must be given to the virtual elements to ensure that they are properly placed within the studio, and the elements themselves serve their purpose. It is also essential that the elements are designed in a way that can best used; transparent, realistic, and multi-dimensional, etc.,” said Halperin.
“Of course, real-time requirements will affect the rendering or the complexity of the setup to ensure the best output quality,” added Churruca.
“There is not much limiting the use of AR anymore. The tracking systems available are becoming less expensive and easier to use and image-based tracking technology is getting more accurate and reliable, ” said Lang. “The template-based workflows will allow them to easily build the AR graphics for daily productions in a standardized format, while special designs can be built by the design teams.”
“I think it’s more the unknown than the real difficulty in adding the technology to the newscast, also as many station groups automate their newscasts, not all AR systems are compatible with all automation systems,” notes McLaughlin. “Along those same lines each AR system is unique with very few if any standards, this makes the comparison shopping very difficult. It’s much easier to compare video arrays and make a choice on image quality or price, it’s very difficult to compare AR/VR systems head to head.”
“The challenge comes in experimentation for the broadcaster to see what works best for them. To take the time to try to tell stories and get the on-air talent used to working with the graphics,” added Lang.
– Miguel Churruca of Brainstorm Multimedia
– Haim Halperin of Avid
– Gerhard Lang of Vizrt
– Ronen Lasry of Full Mental Jacket
– Mack McLaughlin of FX Design Group
Stay tuned for our second roundtable later this week. In it, our panel addresses making AR practical for broadcasters along with augmented reality advantages.