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Sony gets virtual with spatial content and Torchlight virtual production

The new Sony system promises intuitive interaction with 3D objects
3 minute read
The new Sony system promises intuitive interaction with 3D objects

Sony is majoring on the manipulation of virtual spaces at this year’s CES.

Sony had one of what we can call the most CES moments of the show so far, driving its Afeela EV concept car on stage using a PlayStation controller, all of which could make next year’s GTA6 release an entertaining one if it follows that through.

However, one of the highlights of its presentation was undoubtedly the introduction of an immersive spatial content creation system. This includes an XR head-mounted display equipped with high-quality 4K OLED Microdisplays and video see-through function and a pair of controllers optimized for intuitive interaction with 3D objects and precise pointing. 

And it is specifically targeted enough (for the moment at least) at 3D content creation that even Apple’s spoiler announcement of the Apple Vision Pro release didn't manage to dent some of the enthusiasm for it.

The device is based on the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 Platform, the latest XR processor by Qualcomm Technologies, enabling real-time, high-definition, and realistic rendering of textures of 3D objects and facial expressions of human characters. In addition to video see-through functionality and spatial recognition with six cameras and sensors in total, the system features a ring controller that allows users to intuitively manipulate objects in virtual space, as well as a pointing controller that enables precise pointing, allowing creators to craft in virtual space with controllers and keyboards, all while wearing the head-mounted display. 

The idea is that creators will be able to see real-scale 3D models in an Extended Reality (XR) environment with a high-definition display and create and modify 3D models in it. Through integration with third-party 3D creation applications, it also supports remote, real-time review between locations, making this an intuitive and immersive tool for the entire process of spatial content creation.

Sony says it will collaborate on software with developers of a variety of 3D production software, including in the entertainment and industrial design fields. At launch, Sony is exclusively partnering with Siemens, a leader in industrial technology, to introduce a new solution for immersive design and collaborative product engineering using software from the Siemens Xcelerator open digital business platform.

The system will be available later in 2024 when Sony will announce a lot of the rather pertinent details about it, including specs, launch date and regions, pricing, sales channels, and software compatibility.


sony Movie-PreViz

Sony Pictures Entertainment, meanwhile, has also worked with Epic Games and its Unreal Engine on a  new high-end virtual production facility called Torchlight at its Culver City studios.

Sony has long been one of the major movers and shakers in the virtual production space, mainly as it owns some of the leading technology at all of the significant points in the process, from cameras to screens. That makes the new Torchlight facility it's establishing in concert with Epic Games at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA, of interest to many people.

The idea is that it allows filmmakers to create digital scenes prior to principal photography in a hands-on virtual environment using Unreal Engine and virtual cameras, including the Virtual Production Tool Set, which seamlessly links virtual environments with on-set production using Sony’s VENICE camera. 

The idea is that the facility, which also gives filmmakers the flexibility to communicate to stakeholders in real-time and with unique specificity in film production, provides services that can help serve as a testbed/roadmap for visual effects, art department assets, principal photography, set design, gaming assets, marketing assets, and more.

The space will also be equipped with Sony technologies, including the mobile motion capture system, mocopi, which provides full-body motion tracking with lightweight sensors, and Hawk-Eye Innovations’ optical tracking system, SkeleTRACK, which is used by top sports leagues around the world for real-time player, object and ball tracking. 

And Sony says it will continue to provide Torchlight with the latest technological advancements as the Sony Group companies work together to continue developing and testing new technologies.

Sony is sinking decent resources into this as it attempts to capture the high end of the market. Torchlight will be overseen by Alex LoCasale (SVP, Visualization) and Alex Cannon (Creative Director, Visualization) who will report to Andy Davis (President, Production Administration, Columbia Pictures) and Sanford Panitch (President, Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group).

Adds Alex Cannon, Creative Director, Visualization, Torchlight, "Coming from a traditional VFX background, I've experienced the challenges that come with developing a filmmaker's vision and the pressures that build when a project ramps up. Torchlight offers filmmakers the ability to express their ideas in real time, using tools designed for their unique sensibilities. We can invite creative partners into our space and, within moments, produce memorable images that would normally take weeks or months.”

Torchlight is operational and currently working on several projects. 

Tags: Virtual Production