Extended reality (xR) is a term that is commonly used to describe all environments and interactions that combine real and virtual elements. Whilst xR usually encompasses AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), it has a more specific meaning when used in relation to film, broadcast, and live entertainment production. In this article, we explain how, and why it’s on course to become a studio staple.
Extended Reality meaning
When used as an umbrella term, xR denotes all AR and VR technologies –it’s the overarching label given to systems that integrate virtual and real worlds. In this sense, xR can be applied equally to certain motion capture techniques, augmented reality applications, or VR gaming.
In the production world, however, it means something much more specific. xR production refers to a workflow that comprises LED screens, camera tracking systems, and powerful graphics engines.
How does xR production work?
In xR production, a pre-configured 3D virtual environment generated by the graphics engine is displayed on one (or across multiple) high-quality LED screens that form the background to live-action, real world events. When combined with a precision camera tracking system, cameras are able to move in and around the virtual environment, with the real and virtual elements seamlessly merged and locked together creating the combined illusion.
The benefits of xR production
Immersive production and real time edits
Actors, hosts, and producers can see the virtual environments whilst shooting. This means that they can adapt their performances or make edits live on set, which reduces time (and budget) spent in post-production.
Lighting is provided by the LED screens on an xR set. This helps real-world people and objects blend seamlessly into virtual environments, and further reduces time on set adjusting lighting.
No Colour Spill or Chroma Key Compositing
On certain green screen setups, colour spill and the need for chroma key compositing can increase the time spent in post production. Neither is required for xR screens which, again, reduces any time needed in post-production.
The calibration of camera tracking systems on xR sets takes minutes rather than hours (as can happen with green screen sets). This allows for scenes to be shot across multiple sessions with minimal disruption and preparation.