AJA ColorBox helps to establish a uniform look for broadcasts comprising footage shot on multiple cameras, keeping viewers focussed on content and stories, not media and equipment.

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Now that more accessible techniques are emerging for virtual production, it is gaining traction among proAV producers as rapidly as it has for cinema productions. Hybrid live streamed concerts, product launches and other events are making use of VP. However, live events don’t afford second chances like recorded productions for film and TV, which is why Immersive Design Studios developed their software platform called CANVAS for companies who want to use live VP.

CANVAS combines real-time game engine and cloud resources with video capture, playback tools and AI neural networks. It sounds complex, but Immersive Design has made CANVAS run like an app on an iPad. Users can reach in-person and remote audiences with engaging presentations, live experiences and interactive communications with minimal training or setup.

Precision Live Grading

Meanwhile, behind the app, producing memorable, immersive live event activations requires methods that keep viewers focussed on the content and stories, not the media and equipment they are looking at. To achieve that, factors like a uniform look for broadcasts that comprise footage shot on different cameras, for example, become important. Using AJA ColorBox, with Assimilate Live Looks for live grading, is an effective way for the team to regulate video looks.

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AJA ColorBox performs LUT-based colour transformations. It features 12G-SDI in/out and HDMI 2.0 out, and is capable of up to 4K/UltraHD 60p 10-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 and 30p 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 output, making it suitable for live production, on-set production and post.

Immersive Design Studios Co-Founder and CEO Thomas Soetens said, “We’re constantly brainstorming ideas and testing them across client projects. When we started working with in-house live event producers WORRE Studios and began developing LUTs for them, we realised we could use our cinema cameras with AJA ColorBox and Assimilate Live Looks to push the loads. We ordered multiple ColorBoxes and were using them with Live Looks in under a week.” 

The team found this workflow was relatively straightforward to implement for the client. WORRE Studios features a circular LED stage. The venue comprises four massive LED walls – each 60ft wide by 14.5ft high – with a combined resolution of 38K. It accommodates an in-person audience of up to 350 people, and has the capacity to reach 500,000 virtual attendees. CANVAS outputs the experiences onto the LED walls, but most often, everything that happens in-studio is also broadcast or live streamed to remote audiences. 

Ten Different Camera Feeds

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Ensuring the quality of the viewing experience on such a production meant that looks had to be uniform at any place and time an interaction occurred between the LED wall, the speaker and the virtual production background. LUTs were effective because they support camera calibrations that go beyond adjusting the white point and the balance between the colours.

The outputs from ten different cameras were fed through a video mixer and into AJA ColorBox units, which helped unify the look and feel of the colour to a pre-specified LUT the team wanted applied to the broadcast. The resulting effect made the remote audience feel as though they were inside a movie.

“Our ColorBoxes sat between every camera and the switcher in a very simple set-up, adding negligible latency, making them quite handy,” Thomas said. “We just had to configure the devices, communicating via the network. They are so small and portable, that we could place them anywhere and access them remotely via the browser-based web UI. This approach gave us far greater control over the outcome.” 

Centralised Colour

Establishing a uniform look when working with a broad range of cameras can be challenging because each camera will have unique attributes. Recognising that learning the characteristics of the full set of camera models and brands, their different LUTs and calibration approaches, wouldn’t be practical, the team saw ColorBox and Assimilate Live Looks as a centralised method allowing them to unify and colour grade footage from multiple different camera types with low latency. “We were able to swap the look and feel between shots and make every camera source ultimately look the same,” Thomas said. “It allowed us to deploy multiple LUTs on multiple ColorBoxes, test them and bring them directly together for a cohesive program output.”

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As well as using AJA ColorBox, Immersive Design Studios uses several other AJA devices across projects, from KONA I/O cards to FS frame synchronizers, Mini-Converters and, more recently, BRIDGE NDI 3G. “BRIDGE NDI 3G is mutually beneficial for many clients as well as ourselves,” said Thomas. “Considering CANVAS can ingest hundreds of NDI streams, clients set it up for SDI to NDI encoding/decoding needs and just leave it in place.

“AJA ColorBox and BRIDGE NDI 3G are reliable and do what they are supposed to without introducing unnecessary complexities. AJA products are lean, very focused and withstand the test of time. In combination with the CANVAS platform, we can make the most of our artistic decisions and the audience experience.”  www.aja.com