Cream is one of the bleeding-edge pioneers in VR and 360 production. These days, the company focuses on creating unique VR content for the masses.
Having worked on projects like Hulu’s NASCAR and A Curious Mind with Dominic Monaghan, which won a CanadianScreen Award, Cream is at the center of the VR industry. For almost two decades, Cream has worked on documentary content for Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, History Channel, National Geographic and the BBC. In 2015, Cream started working with 360-video and building 360 cameras. At the time, it was the first hype cycle for VR. Everyone was jumping onto the VR bandwagon and exploring what 360-video had to offer.
As for Cream, the company was able to produce around twenty-five 360 projects during that early era. However, 360-video creation wasn’t as stable as some thought it would be. Cream took what they learned from their time working with 360-video and pivoted towards something different — delivering volumetric 3D experiences.
Making models come to life
The creative team at Cream had the chance to work with many celebrities during their high-profile documentary shoots — and these relationships have paid off. When Cream turned to VR and game engine development, Cream came up with the plan to “do what we do with television in a VR space,” according to Cream’s CEO Andrew MacDonald. Essentially, with their VR projects, Cream wanted to transport the celebrities they work with beyond 360-video into a full 3D virtual world.
After working on a 2-year project at Sheridan College, Cream can now do exactly that. The company has found a way to create an avatar using a low-poly model that can be created from a video of the celebrity’s performance. This new way of modeling is “10 times less expensive than triple-A Hollywood cinematic avatars,” according to MacDonald.
How do they transport celebs into the 3D-world?
Before we get into how Cream creates 3D models of their performers, let’s first define what 3D modeling is. Basically, a model is a 3-dimensional object created using computer software. 3D modeling is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any surface of an object in three dimensions through specialized software. Cream has developed a new way of creating that model.
So how does Cream model their celebrities? Cream scans a subject or an environment in a process called photogrammetry. In its simplest explanation, Cream scans the actors photographically (in 2D) resulting in images that reconstruct 3D data which can be sent into their modeling software, Maya and Z brush. Then, they get to work smoothing out and perfecting the 3D model. This takes a lot of energy and computer power to do, but it is worth it in the end for the results.
The hardware Cream uses
Building in a game engine doesn’t require massive processing power. It’s the material, the sets, the people and the characters that go into the engine that require a lot of processing. You want to produce those at the highest quality so when you work with them in a game engine, they look real. That’s where a powerful computer system comes in.
“Without the Dell Precision workstations with NVIDIA Quadro RTX GPUs we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do,” says MacDonald. “There’s a lot of work related to what we do, and the Dell Precision workstations with Quadro RTX GPUs allow us to keep innovating and pushing the limits of what can be done in VR.”
Cream uses the Precision workstations with Quadro RTX GPUs because it ends up saving them money. When creating these virtual characters and the environment, there’s a ton of complicated work. With their setup, they are able to do all the work faster than they could before. That ends up not only saving them money; it means Cream can push the technology even further.
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Check out Cream Productions here: https://www.creamproductions.com/digital