Virtual production is the latest thing in video at the moment, and it’s developing at a pretty rapid pace. While we’ve had motion tracking and compositing for years for virtual environments, it’s only in the last few years that we’re able to do it in real-time. And it’s only now that such technology is coming to the masses, allowing independent filmmakers and small production houses to take advantage of it.
While some systems can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Vive Mars CamTrack system (buy here) lets you do it for only a few thousand dollars. Despite the lower cost, it’s a very capable system. We stopped by the Vive booth at NAB 2013 to chat with marketing manager Tim Wen and learn more about the system and how it works.
You would typically associate the Vive name more with the consumption side of virtual content rather than its creation. Tim told us that the company decided to develop the Mars CamTrack after noticing that people were repurposing the HTC Vive virtual reality trackers and attaching them to cameras in the early days of virtual production. On seeing this, the company wanted to make a more official solution for their customers.
They wanted to help, to make something that was portable, simple to use, and affordable for the masses. Given that they already had the technology to make it happen – after all, people were using existing products for this purpose – it seems like a logical next step in the Vive ecosystem.
The system is very simple to use, requiring only 10 minutes to set up before you’re up and running and shooting with your virtual set. You can either key the set out from a green screen and composite it in a computer. Or you can project it onto walls behind the subject, with real-time processing using Unreal Engine. Pair the latter option up with something like the Accsoon SeeMo & Prolycht combo we saw, and you’ve got real-time interaction with both the environment behind the subject and the light hitting them.
While not quite low-budget enough for hobbyists, for professional solo creators or small studios, it’s a very affordable system that provides a lot of bang for your buck. Of course, you still need to have powerful enough computers to process everything in real-time, and that costs money, too, but your camera tracking system isn’t going to make a massive dent in the budget.
Price and Availability
The basic Vive Mars CamTrack system contains:
- The Mars itself
- Three rovers (the bit that attaches to your camera, props, or even your subject)
- Two base stations
- Two Vive Tracker 3.0
- The calibration board
- All of the cables and power adapters you need
Update (21-8-2023): The VIVE Mars FIZTrack – a follow focus that connects with the system is now available for sale.
All of this goes for a total of $5,000. They’re also running a special Broadcast Bundle Sale at the moment that includes the Vive Mars CamTrack system along with a perpetual Aximmetry Broadcast DE license for a total price of $8,980 (a $1,810 saving).