We were watching hockey, just after the release of Matrix Revolutions. As another contested goal happened, with no camera angles to catch it, we thought "Wouldn't it be cool if you could just spin it around like in The Matrix, and see the action from any angle?" So we bought some inexpensive pan-tilt cameras and went to work.
After many late nights, it worked: we had wired and sync’d the cameras and we could use a computer to move and point them to the same spot. But we wanted more, we wanted to see how far we could take our idea.
From The Matrix, to cameras in the kitchen.
Within months we built a larger version of the system and rigged it to the ceiling of our local hockey arena. We learned a lot from that installation, it could only capture about 140-degrees of coverage and it took about 10 seconds to output video. but we knew that for broadcast it had to work live and in real-time.
Out of the lab and into the field.
So we rewrote the code, and built an even bigger system along with a mobile TV unit from which to operate and move it (to Hollywood, of course). Not only could the system now do full 360-degree coverage, but it worked in real-time!
From trailer to TV truck.
This is about the time that Glenn, a former marketing director for the Olympic Games, brought his team to the company. Glenn got us booked to cover DisneyWorld’s international martial arts tournament. The camera system worked perfectly and we got some great footage – it was an incredible experience working at Disney. Their people are real pros, and they thought 360 was terrific!
I’m going to DisneyWorld!
Next stop: Philips Arena in Atlanta, for a two-week series of NBA and NHL telecasts.
The 360 system was installed over the arena in no time, and the next thing y’know we’re feeding 360º video to TV broadcasters. It was quite the experience to take what we had done on a small scale all the way to the Big Leagues in such a short time.
Philips Arena: Now with 360 for every event.
Everyone who sees 360, wants it; UFC, FIFA, MTV, Discovery Channel, and not only did we get asked to do the 2010 SuperBowl, but ...
Now we knew this was more than just a camera system – it could mean a new era in entertainment – interactive control of the content, where any viewer could control their own point-of-view, live, in 360º. We were scheduled to cover several sports at the Games, and there was even talk about covering Opening Ceremonies.
But there was a huge roadblock: we had to be in HD. The worldwide financial crisis that had started in 2008 erased most sources of capital and try as we might, we couldn't get any companies or investors to back us – despite having a long list of potential customers.
Today HD has become affordable, and we have developed new technology along the way. We can stream live interactive video to any tablet or smart TV, so that viewers can control their own POV “in 360”! TV audiences will love it – and so will producers and networks, since 360 can also help them to capitalize upon the interactive power of broadband and mobile media.
... it's a long way from the garage ...