With 2016 being its breakout year, 360° VR productions are popping up everywhere. And VR headsets – like Samsung GearVR (www.samsung.com/us/explore/gear-vr/?cid=ppc), Google Cardboard (www.google.com/get/cardboard), or Oculus Rift (https://www.oculus.com/en-us/) – are making it a quality, immersive experience for viewers. But what’s going on “behind-the-scenes” to bring VR content that packs a punch for the viewing audiences? ASSIMILATE®, the SCRATCH® post-production tools company, is at the forefront of supporting VR with its new SCRATCH VR Suite that includes all the post tools – conform, color grading, compositing, and finishing – to work in 360° media, and also includes SCRATCH Play for playback and the SCRATCH Web cloud-based collaboration and review tools that are automatically formatted for 360° viewing in VR headsets. Getting out in the field with customers, Lucas Wilson, VR entrepreneur and VR producer at ASSIMILATE, has been working behind-the-scenes to assist clients in producing several VR projects.

Wilson and Jeff Edson, CEO at ASSIMILATE, recently talked with about how ASSIMILATE is responding to the VR market with its SCRATCH product line to offer content creators with the streamlined professional and powerful production and post-production tools that are needed to enhance and finalize the look-and-feel of VR content.

“As with our entire SCRATCH product line for 2D/3D productions, our goal is to provide powerful and cost-effective post-production tools that enable content creators to be as innovative, creative, and productive as possible,” said Jeff. “And the same now applies to VR content. At NAB 2016 we announced the SCRATCH VR Suite, the only professional end-to-end tools and workflow, that simplifies the post process for working in 360° media.  Since then we’ve announced the SCRATCH VR Suite 8.5 update that enables creators with even more VR features and functionality.”

We’ve also expanded the capabilities of our standard SCRATCH Web with a VR mode to offer the first professional, cloud-based dailies/review tool for reviewing immersive VR content, anywhere in the world. And we’ve streamlined the content-review process as the first company to effectively stream VR content to a headset from a cloud-based website through a standard browser for review, collaboration, and approval.” 

“We’ve had a lot of customer input about what tools are needed for creating an efficient VR workflow,” said Lucas. “In the case of content, review, and collaboration, the SCRATCH VR Suite and Web VR greatly simplify the process such that working in VR is as easy as working in any other format.”

Lucas added, “Wear your VR headset of choice, then once you’ve launched your SCRATCH Web review link for the VR content, you can playback VR imagery, pan around imagery or create a “magic window” so that you can just move your smart phone around, similar to looking through a window to the 360° content behind it. The VR content, including metadata, is automatically formatted for the 360° video headsets. The reviewer can then make notes and comments on their mobile device to send back to the sender. It’s that simple.”

You can try it out – just launch this link https://vr360.sweb.media/ on your Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S6 or other) via the Chrome mobile browser, click the goggles in the lower right corner, put it in your headset, and view immediate headset-based VR from a cloud-based website.

“SCRATCH VR and SCRATCH Web (http://www.assimilateinc.com/products/scratch-vr/) can be used for the post-production, reviewing and collaborating on content of any format, any resolution,” said Jeff.  “The VR mode opens another door for content creators to be even more innovative and creative in developing stories and imagery with high impact.”

What Users and Partners Are Saying
“Pure McCartney”
: “I used Assimilate’s SCRATCH VR Suite to color grade and finish JauntVR’s production of ‘Pure McCartney’, a six-sequence series of VR experiences,” said colorist Dave Franks (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1389400/). “I’ve graded dozens of both 2D and 3D features in SCRATCH over the past decade and the VR Suite is essentially an extension of that workflow – with all the needed VR tools streamlined into Scratch's well-established intuitive toolset. The grading and other finishing tools are ideal for working with this type of VR imagery to craft and hone the look of each sequence.” The VR series consists of vignettes of Paul McCartney assembled in a montage of his music, artwork, photographs, and other imagery, as he’s discussing his iconic songwriting and other anecdotes. See “Pure McCartney” at www.jauntvr.com.

“Ewa”: Virgil Kastrup, who did the color grading and finishing of “Ewa”, a VR pilot included in the Cannes 2016 VR Pavilion, stated, “I used a Beta copy of Assimilate’s SCRATCH VR Suite. The VR suite offers the same caliber of tools and fluid workflow as SCRATCH, but they’re geared to work in the VR/360 space, as well as 3D. They’re intuitive and very easy to use, which gave me a confidence boost for testing looks and achieving a quality result.” See “Ewa” at www.makropol.dk.

How does the SCRATCH VR Suite work?
While the excitement is in the content, it’s the behind-the-scenes software and hardware that give filmmakers and content creators the needed tools to make quality VR happen. Working in a new technology like VR can be complex, and the SCRATCH VR Suite simplifies the workflow so that creators can stay focused on the content while maintaining high levels of productivity and quality.

  • End-to-end 360 mono/stereo VR workflow and toolset: Dailies, conform, grading, versioning, compositing, finishing - all on an Oculus Rift.
  • Playback and Review from the Desktop: Stereo or mono; single or split view; single or dual monitor; SDI out to a reference display or projector; and flat view or spherical projection. Output directly to the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets and have all player controls available from within the headset. SCRATCH VR allows you to work, playback, and review 360 media from any angle. M
  • Cloud-based Review and Collaboration (via SCRATCH Web): Securely share, review, and collaborate 360 media through your own Web channel. Post a single shot or a hundred shots at once; create separate channels for projects or clients; invite others for review just by entering their email address; or review from your desktop, tablet or smart phone with your favorite VR headset.
  • Manage 360 Media Metadata: Manage 360 specific metadata per shot, full timeline including versions, as well as on all output and deliverables. This ensures proper interpretation and playback in SCRATCH VR and on various 360 publishing platforms, such as YouTube 360 or Facebook.
  • Editorial: Re-center a 360 shot to ensure the object of interest is maintained from shot to shot in your timeline. Stabilize your equirectangular shot or animate a new motion path to guide a viewer through a 360 scene.
  • Grade and Composite: Apply blur, clarity or other effects without creating a seam in 360 projection. Add grading layers that are automatically repeated on the right or left side to the equirectangular image. Composite 2D elements into your 360 scene using the Equirectangular-2D effects node.
  • Finish and Render:  Output to any format or framer, and include all the necessary metadata for 360 publishing, such as YouTube 360. Output equirectangular, cubic or a 2D carve out from your 360 projection; animate the desired paths through the 360 scenes, set the field-of-view and render your 2D version.
  • Output: publish directly to YouTube360 or Facebook360 with automatic Google 360 metadata insertion. Render for common VR distribution platforms like Jaunt or Littlstar.

Learn more about the basics of the SCRATCH VR Suite with two tutorials:

  1. Tutorial - the movie https://vimeo.com/156395178

2. VR Tutorial - the sequel https://vimeo.com/162653407

Learn more about ASSIMILATE and the SCRATCH VR Suite at www.assimilateinc.com