Friday, 20 September 2013

Live Motion Graphics at Bucks - Broadcast Technology and Virtual Sets from ChyronHego

Live Graphics in Real Time - Your Logo Here
One of the best things about being a student at Bucks New University is the sheer range and quantity of media that gets produced here. Not just Animation and Visual Effects, but Film & TV, Dance, Acting & Performance, Games, Music, Live Events, and Sound Design. What this means for students is an incredible array of talent that can be sourced to collaborate on a huge range of productions and projects.

Earlier this year we blogged about the excellent Bucks Media Collaboration page at Facebook – where you can post a call-out for talent, and get the skills you need to make your project happen. It's a huge resource, and a vital way of getting the people you need for your project. You can't be a specialist in every field, but you can get access to specialist talent and get them involved.

This week we were treated to a workshop by Mark Bowden From ChyronHego, a company which provides "the world's most advanced graphic creation and playout systems available".
Mark introduced us to the amazing technology that can now be used to produce live graphics for TV broadcasts. Imagine you are broadcasting a football match, sponsored by a client whose logo isn’t featured on the stadium billboards. No problem – you simply project their logo onto the football pitch.

Live Feed, before and after tracked graphic
The software tracks the corporate logo (or whatever; it could be anything) on to the pitch in real time. You can create huge pop-up ads - giant Coke cans can appear in Wembley stadium, as if they were really there. You can create all kinds of live motion graphics, such as an arrow or a dotted line which follows and highlights the path of action of a football as a striker scores a goal.

So how does it work? The Hego software tracks the pixels on screen and moves with them in x y and z space. It’s a real time render, keeping the digital image fixed on screen. The software looks for anchor points, and then drops the graphic into the anchor points. The practical result is - the logo moves with the video.

And you can create a live digital matte, so you automatically matte out the logo, so that the players  appear to run in front of the graphics, for all the world as if the logo is really there in actual physical space.
Live graphic with digital matte

The same technology can be used to create virtual sets, again broadcast in real time. Let's say you want to shoot some footage of a bunch of talking heads in a studio, chatting about an event taking place in some other location, like, say, Old Trafford.
Green Screen Studio at Bucks
You start by filming your guests in front of a green screen (which we also have here at Bucks, available for student projects).
Studio Talking Heads - filmed live in front of a green screen background
So now all you have to do is track your location onto the green screen.In the image below, the software has tracked the logo (the black pointy arrow on the yellow background) onto the green screen background.

The result is that your studio guests appear in front of the location (say, Wembley Stadium, or Wimbledon Centre Court) in a live feed, for all the world as if they were really there.

So what has all this got to do with animation? Well, maybe not that much. But the range of opportunities for collaboration here at Bucks is one of the best things about the university. Everyone needs to have their own area of specialisation, but it is also vital to learn to collaborate with others - almost all successful media projects are collaborations of one kind or another. Good directors are usually cheerleaders, gathering the best talent and encouraging everyone to do their best to deliver an excellent performance, greater than the sum of its parts.

So the message to our students at Bucks is to aim as high as you can. Need a sound designer for your project? Acting talent? Dance performance? Motion capture? It's all here - waiting for you to get involved.

(Editor's Note: For more on the range of digital services available at Bucks, check out this guide to recording voice talent, read about why sound designers want to collaborate with animators, find the Bucks Media Collaboration Page, and check out our Motion Capture facilities. )

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