Vive’s Mars CamTrack promises virtual set tech on an indie budget

HTC Vive unveiled the Mars CamTracka system designed to place real-world actors in virtual environments The Mandalorian, at a relatively affordable price. This will allow producers to film actors against a projected background that moves in sync with the camera to make it look like they are in a real environment.

The system uses existing hardware as well as a new box called Mars which processes all signals. It also includes a pair of Vive Trackers (3.0) to track camera, light or prop movement, three Rovers to send a Vive Tracker’s signal to Mars, and a pair of Base Stations (2) that determine the exact location of each Vive Tracker and mobile module.

The idea is to use Unreal Engine to create virtual 3D environments (spaceships, planets, etc.) that can be manipulated in real time on a computer and projected onto a screen. You then track up to three cameras and feed the signal into Unreal Engine through a system called live link. As the camera tracks the actor, the background moves in real time based on the tracking data, so it looks like the actor is really in the scene.

There are big advantages to this technique. Everything can be done in one place without the need for expensive shots, and sets can be changed on the fly. It also makes performance easier, as the actors can see their surroundings rather than having to pretend it’s there. Plus, it saves on post-production costs — according to ILM, the technique was used in 50% of The Mandalorian shots. The technique also works for green screen shooting, as video bound by HTC Vive watch.

HTC Vive aims to make virtual production affordable with Mars CamTrack system

Setting up such systems can be complicated, but HTC Vive promises features like automatic calibration for camera lag and lens distortion. It also has plug and play compatibility, allowing you to sync Unreal Engine’s LiveLink system “with no additional software required”.

Mars CamTrack is sold as a package with trackers, rovers, base stations, Mars unit, cables, a calibration kit and more. The early bird price is $5,000, which isn’t cheap (and doesn’t include a projector and other things you might need), but it’s a bargain compared what it would cost you to try to build one yourself. If you are interested, you can now register to buy a Mars CamTrack kit.

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