Realtime editing in VR is (almost) here


There are two huge problems with creating content for VR – Epic has addressed the major one, being able to interactively edit in VR. This is the way VR specific content will be created from now on – in VR for VR. The UI can only get more intuitive from here on out.

I’ve been busy working out some of the hardware kinks on a massive VR space, but I wanted to take the time to belatedly comment on on an announcement Epic made last week. They not only managed to get the Unreal Editor running in VR, but have hacked up some VR UI that enables you to access (most?) of the editing features from inside VR. This is awesome. This is something we (Framestore) were kicking about, thinking of hacking some implementation together, but now we don’t have to. Thank you Epic for providing (and supporting) tools to make VR content creation sooooo much simpler.

Here’s a screen shot of manipulating an object in 3D – you can translate, rotate and scale the object in VR!

UnrealVREditThey have also implemented some menu items in VR – note that you pull up a menu then make the selection using a (in this case Vive) controller.

UnrealVREdit3For non- textual things like selection a material, they have a more traditional menu palette.

UnrealVREdit2You can see some videos and read a summary of it here.

Epic will be making a more formal announcement at GDC on Wednesday March 16. Hopefully with soon-to-follow release of a VR enabled Engine update or source code. I’ve seen some comments that have downplayed the usefulness of this development, but I think that most folks are missing the point (or have never developed VR content) – you’ll use the tools that are the fasted for initial development – I can’t really see folks starting a project from scratch by climbing into VR. The resolutions and ergonomics suck.


For anyone who’s worked on VR content, tried a work-in-progress level in VR, gotten out of VR, done a tweak, gotten back into VR, etc. etc. Just being able to climb into VR and make edits in situ is a huge step forward. There’s a traditional space for editing that doesn’t require literally waving your hands around (which gets pretty tiring pretty quickly), but for that final bit of tweaking, you can now immerse yourself in the environment the user will be in. This is a fantastic step in the right direction. This is a bear to implement, and I’m really glad Epic is taking on VR content editing in such an enthusiastic manner. The fact that Sweeney is narrating is just the icing on the cake.

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‘Battle for Avengers Tower’ wins Best Animated VR Film at VRFest 2016

Kudos to the entire Framestore VR Studio team!

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Best Practices in VR Design

I just ran across @VRBoy ‘s post on VR Design Practices. Yes, yes, and yes. In particular Performance and Testing are the two areas I constantly see folks forgetting to implement.

Best Practices in VR Design

And by testing I mean not only making sure the app works, but that the overall implementation is suited for VR. I see a lot of creatives who think that just because they can make a good 2D or video, that that translates to VR. No one seems to actually *test* their apps in VR before they release, as if what they see on a monitor is what’s it’s like in VR.


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Musings on “Retina Display” quality for Virtual Reality

tl,dr: How much resolution do VR HMDs need to approach that of a “Retina Display”? Using the current optics setup, about 10x more than they do now. Roughly 22,000 × 10,060 pixels per display.

I work for Framestore’s Virtual Reality Studio. Occasionally I ponder big questions. Sometimes these paths cross. We also make a lot of videos – both for the incorrectly named 360º videos (of which I’m firmly in the “this is NOT Virtual Reality” camp, they just use the same hardware as VR) and as backdrops for VR experiences.

I was wondering just how good we should make our videos in VR without going overboard. You just want to  make the resolution of the video good enough so it either hits the resolution of the display, OR it hits the maximum resolution of the eye – whichever is lower. So this got me to thinking, what IS the resolution that the typical person can discern when wearing an HMD? Hmm… where to start…

Well let’s take a guess that Apple’s definition of a retina display is a good resolution to shoot for. The definition of a Retina Display is generally accepted as 300 ppi  (pixels/inch) @ 10-12 inches from eye. (Really – who holds a display in front of their face? – no matter…)

OK, so let’s convert this into some form of useful VR measurement. If we use the formula;

PPD (Pixels /Degree) = 2 D R tan(½º)

R = resolution in pixels/unit-distance
D = distance in units-distance

 = ~57 PPD

So 57 PPD is going to be our definition of “Retina Display”. We need to convert this to the VR FOV (Field of View) to calculate how big a VR display has to be. Well’ since this is speculative let’s go the full value, the average full FOV.

SO now just how big is the average FOV, both horizontally and vertically? Well, there’s quite a few opinions, but since I’m a US taxpayer, let’s let the US Government – specifically the United Stated Department of Defense – answer this (and many many other human factors questions) in MIL-STD-1473 G – “Human Engineering” or

So if we look through this wonderful, rich, document that contains many many useful items for the aspiring VR/AR UI & UX designer, we arrive at the following diagram:


So we can see that according to the DOD, the average FOV is 190º horizontal and 120º vertically.

But.. the horizontal value is for both eyes.  If we instead use the horizontal FOV of a single eye 95º from the eye center outward, and 35º from eye center inwards, we get about 130º FOV for an eye.

For 57 PPD, this gives us 7,410 x 6840 pixel display – per eye, or a 14,820 x 6840 a full stereo FOV retina display using current lens optics with a single split screen.

I might be wrong, but current HMD’s are nowhere near that….Let’s compare to a DK2.

A Oculus DK2 FOV max is 95º horizontal and 106º vertical (from vrHmdDesc::MaxEyeFov – not using the 100 degree value). So assuming we still have 35º from eye center inwards this gives of 64º per eye horizontal FOV for a DK2.

Thus we’d need a resolution 3648 x 6042 to make a “Retina Display” at this FOV for one eye. A DK2 is 1080 x 1200 per eye. If we use the current split screen setup for left eye/right eye,  7269 x 6042 is the “Retina Display” resolution, while 2160 x 1200 is the DK2s.

But we’re not done. You see, due to the lenses, most HMD’s render out smaller area than the actual resolution. If you plot it out from a standard DK2, you’ll get the actual pixels used (white) vs the unused pixels (black);


Thus only about 68% of the pixels in the display are actually used to render what the eye can see.

So my final tally is that for an HMD to have a retina display and using lenses to bend the flat display, we’d need about 10,900 x 10,060 per eye. This is about 85 times the pixels of a DK2. Or, put another way it’s about a factor of 10x the current resolution.

Considering that I currently have to try to get a render done in about 5 milliseconds with my current target hardware (Oculus’  CV1), it looks like my role as chief performance optimization engineer is pretty safe occupation for the near future.

It’s also a good thing to know, as now when we’re doing high quality rendered video we should keep the high quality stuff archived (at 20K x 30K as the target because, 360!), because while a 10x jump in resolution sounds like a lot, I have no doubt that we’re going to rapidly iterate on VR hardware improvements and that number will soon be well within the realm of possibility.






Posted in Augmented Reality, GearVR, Graphics Hardware, Virtual Reality | Leave a comment

Making the most of your GearVR

The GearVR has a micro USB port on it that can be used for a number of different things. The trick is to plug in the USB device *before* you plug in the phone! We use the following type of adapter in our GearVR’s to connect up any regular USB-Type A device.


This allows us to power the fan for extended game playing or movie watching (makes the battery last longer) or to take screen shots by connecting a keyboard – you just need to Print-Screen and the screenshot will show up in the Phone’s screenshots folder. You can connect up any HID USB device.

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Framestore’s VR Studio is pulling ahead in VR Space

My plan for domination of VR content creation space continues …muhahahahahaha

(As told by AdAge)

Production Company Standout 2015: Framestore

Shop Solidified Rep as VR Pro

Virtual reality has been the industry’s darling of late and remains top of mind for agencies and advertisers. Visual effects powerhouse Framestore planted its foot firmly in the space by creating a dedicated division to the field and has now become the destination shop for those seeking to create sophisticated virtual reality experiences.

… the article continues on in a favorable tone 🙂

Really, it’s the excellent team for folks working at Framestore that make this kind of stuff possible. The Framestore reputation for the highest quality work continues in our VR productions. Did I mention that we are hiring?

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All work and some play….

Part of the VR team at Framestore New York VR Studios takes a break from virtual things and tries their hand at sculpting something real – with various levels of success.IMG_20151030_153741.2

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Uploading your GearVR APKs faster – Part 2

When the $99 GearVR hits the market this year, and as folks learn that they can get a great VR experience I really think that it’s going to take off and build momentum. With the obvious (to consumers) advantage that having Netflix and Hulu and games available on your GearVR, that extra nudge to try VR and get converted to a VR enthusiast  isn’t that tough a call. Pretty much *anyone* who’s tried a GearVR with good VR content comes away desiring one. It takes entertainment to a whole other level. Great for consumers. Great for content creators. Bad for VR devs.

Developing for GearVR is a monumental pain. Take the disadvantage of Android programming in general, throw in the fact that you’re testing on a device that you not only have to upload the APK to, but you need to put the device on your face to see if it actually looks right. Plus the fact that you do NOT have a USB connection to get the debug log spew, but you are forced to either suck it off the device after it runs or (better) create a WiFi connection with your device to watch the spew scroll by. You eventually learn a bunch of tricks to ease the pain. But in the end, you’ll still need to strap it on to do final testing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the VR aspects of GearVR – Samsung and Oculus are pushing out a high-quality consumer VR product and the mobility of it blows me away. When I used to be in Developer Relations for Intel, I had to tell my in-laws that I went to game companies and made the game code better. That’s easier to understand than optimizing rendering pipeline operations, reducing the number of samplers,  ruthless culling, optimizing cache line alignment, or multi-threading an rendering engine. Pretty much all my in-laws  now know I produce “Virtual Reality Experiences” quickly followed by a GearVR demo. The get it right away. It’s an awesome platform for mobile VR (and regular video entertainment and games as well). Did I mention that developing for it is a real pain?

So one of the inevitable steps of development for GearVR is uploading the APK to the device. Now when we had a huge video file, we were smart and just copied it to the phone and loaded in programmatically, not making it part of the APK till the very end. But eventually you need to turn off all the dev. shortcuts and start testing the entire APK, in the near final form. Building & uploading time becomes critical, especially at 3am.

One thing we did was try to choose the devices that could upload the fastest.  It turns out that, while their GPU power was slow, if you were interested in how things behaved and looked, and not how they performed, we could get away with using an S5 “Moonlight” and running it in USB3 mode.

APK Upload SpeedsI did some performance testing and here’s a graph of relative performance.  Note that prior to S6, there could be some hardware (incl. GPU) variations that would give wildly varying performance, including upload speeds. (Only one variant of the Note 4 was tested) So if you end up in the test-edit-upload-test cycle, you might find you can save yourself some time and frustration by trying to optimize upload speeds to the testing devices.


Posted in Android, GearVR, Virtual Reality | Leave a comment