SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
Integrated media organisation and recognised leader in global entertainment, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), decided during the course of last year that it was time to up their creative game and develop new and innovative visual content to enhance the production values of their flagship product, WrestleMania. They embarked on an ambitious project to improve their on-air graphics presentation, by incorporating high-end Augmented Reality (AR) content and technology to enhance their already action-packed productions in new and exciting ways. The powerhouse of smack-downs and take-downs threw out many questions, searched high and low for the perfect solution and ended up in Spain to find the answer.
World Wrestling Entertainment consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to global audiences, reaching more than 800 million homes around the world in 25 languages. WWE’s events, especially WrestleMania, are some of the world’s most visually stunning when it comes to graphics production value, which could – arguably – be called more realistic than the wrestling action itself.
For WrestleMania 34 in 2018, WWE wanted to include high-end AR content and technology to enhance both production values and the WWE Superstars’ presence. After research and deliberation, they chose Spanish company Brainstorm to help them in their quest. Jointly headquartered in Madrid and Valencia, Brainstorm is a global company that provides real-time 3D graphics solutions for broadcast, feature film production and corporate presentations. Brainstorm’s flagship product, eStudio, is unique in the market due to its sophistication, open architecture and versatility, enabling both design and real-time playout of virtual studios and 3D graphics, as well as the easy creation of customised products and applications.
WWE chose InfinitySet, Brainstorm’s virtual set solution, because of its ability to render realistic content with convincing reflections and transparencies in real-time. WWE especially liked the quality of InfinitySet’s rendering with PBR materials and advanced shaders like refractions, which they could add to their existing models. WrestleMania was phase one of an ambitious project aimed to create new ways to impact global audiences by using advanced imagery mixed with live entertainment. The AR graphics package they developed for WrestleMania included substantial amounts of glass, as well as other semi-transparent and reflective materials. They also needed an engine that could render particles well, which was something InfinitySet was very capable of.
In the virtual environment, WWE required a powerful graphics solution to create content that is a convincing representation of real life mixed with virtual elements, where the goal is to create a composite that feels married together and where one cannot discern the real from the computer-generated. The toolset available in InfinitySet has allowed WWE to accomplish this objective better than all the other solutions they researched in the market. Especially useful were the depth of field/focus feature, and the ability to adjust the virtual contact shadows and reflections to achieve very realistic results. InfinitySet also allowed the WWE production team to create a wide range of content, from on-camera wraparounds to be inserted into long-format shows, to short, self-contained pieces.
INSIDE THE BOX
The complete setup comprises three different studios: a multi-render Virtual Studio, a smaller AR Studio and a portable AR system. The Virtual Studio includes three cameras with an InfinitySet Player renderer per camera (with Unreal Engine plugins), all controlled from the InfinitySet Controller via a touchscreen in the control room and Blackmagic Ultimatte 12 chroma keyers. For receiving the live video signal, InfinitySet integrates with three Ross Furio robotics on curved rails, two of them on the same track with collision detection. The setup also includes an OnDemand license to manage the playout of data-driven AR graphics.
The AR Studio, meanwhile, is a compact version of the multi-render one, and relies on a single camera on a jib with Mo-Sys StarTracker with InfinitySet + Track license. The AR Studio receives only video from the camera, and all the keying required is done using InfinitySet’s internal chroma keyer. This smaller studio, suitable for more compact events, allows the creation of AR content with simpler setups and requires less resources to install, drive and derig.
Finally, the Portable AR system is a custom-made road case with a redundant InfinitySet with tracking and internal chroma keyer for live AR productions on the road. This sytem will deliver advanced AR content to a wider range of WWE productions and special events held throughout the year. This kit was designed to be sent anywhere in the world and requires minimal installation. Operators just need to take it to the event, open the lid, plug the power in- and they instantly have a turnkey AR system with redundancy to ensure reliable operation on remote sites. InfinitySet is used to create content that airs across WWE’s many media platforms, including their award-winning direct-to-consumer WWE Network, as well as their various digital outlets and through their broadcast partners.
Brainstorm Multimedia is a relatively young company who started activities in 1993 as a provider of 3D graphics services to broadcasters. These services were based on the software previously developed by the company’s founder, Ricardo Montesa, later commercialised as the eStudio suite, a 3D graphics and virtual studio solution currently regarded as the industry’s fastest 3D real-time rendering engine. Today, Brainstorm’s product portfolio covers a wide range of solutions, from news clients like CNBC and sports affiliates within the European Football League to financial and elections graphics, weather or film pre-visualisation, not forgetting branding applications like those of the WWE.
Brainstorm is currently immersed in an ambitious technological partnership with Avid to provide eStudio’s sophisticated and highly intuitive real-time 3D rendering technology embedded in AMG (Avid Motion Graphics), Avid’s new line of broadcast graphics products. Through this agreement, Brainstorm provides Avid, one of the most influential companies in the broadcast sector worldwide, with the core technology behind eStudio’s 3D real-time rendering engine.