360 degrees in motion

CBS isn't the only company looking to provide viewers a circular, computer-rendered perspective. Westport, Conn.-based Kewazinga (named for a rare African wood) has developed its own proprietary software that creates 360-degree perspectives with both still frames and moving video.

Its strategy is to take output from two or more cameras and feed it into special software to fill in the missing data, providing an "immersive" viewer experience. The technology is being tested at the spring-training facility of a Major League Baseball team, using two cameras around a batter and pitcher as they take a swing or throw a pitch. Results will be on display in the Sun Microsystems exhibit booth at next month's NAB.

The technology was developed over the past three years at Sarnoff Corp. in Princeton, N.J. Kewazinga Chairman and CEO David Worley says the software offers sports producers a "better" experience than CBS' EyeVision system because the latter uses pan, tilt and zoom heads to synchronize the cameras and cuts between the respective views to create a true 360-degree view. And, whereas EyeVision displays a "frozen" still image for its effect, Kewazinga's software fills in the missing elements in and around moving images as well.

"What our software does is take the position between any number of cameras and fills in 'virtual cameras.' We can put one virtual camera between a pair, or we can put 20 between a pair of existing cameras," Worley explains. "This allows a director in a truck to smoothly pan across the cameras."

The system uses small Sony digital video "cube" cameras, and the software runs on a standard Windows 2000 or a Sun Microsystems Windows NT platform. A proprietary software player must also be used to see the rendered effect. This player controls both time and perspective, allowing the viewer to freeze the moment, change the perspective or change the perspective as the video is playing.

Worley sees many applications for the software, including live broadcast sports production, industrial training, and video/motion picture special effects. "The software and player allows viewers to feel as if they were present at the time of taping and able to move through and around the array, however it is configured," he says. "The software processes the video, and this effect can be broadcast over the air or digitized onto a DVD or server or to the Internet. And, with the coming of broadband and digital set-top boxes, we'll be able to do fully interactive motion within and around an event."

Initially, plans for the software application call for Worley and his team (headed by co-founders Scott Sorokin, vice chairman and director of development, and Andy Weber, vice chairman and director of new technologies) to provide complete production services with the portable system. "As we grow and can train clients on it," Worley says, "we'll simply license the software directly."