Virtual Reality Close-Up : Clyde DeSouza
Clyde DeSouza has an amazing track record as a VR filmmaker and an Immersive Media Consultant. His non-fiction book, ‘Think in 3D’, is well known with 3D filmmakers in Hollywood. Think in 3D is also used as part of syllabus at the University of Southern California’s Immersive Media Course.
Some notable Incubators setup by Clyde DeSouza include: A 3D Lab for Govt. ofAbu Dhabi’s Two Four 54, an Immersive Journalism incubator at TimesTelevision, India and a Media Lab at Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore. He’s currently setting up an Immersive Media incubator for Eros International, in Mumbai. He is also working on his his next Cinematic VR project, following hisdebut VR graphic novel film; Dirrogate. The film is licensed to Samsung VR andin 2017, to a China based Cinema Chain at the Asia TV forum, Singapore.
In a freewheeling chat with Broadcast & Film, Clyde recounts his journey into the world of VR and explains why India is lagging behind the West in the world of VR and how we can overcome this hurdle.
Q1. Tell us about your journey into the world of VR, 3D, AR and what attracted you to this segment?
As far back as I can remember circa 1990, it was when I got my first true home computer – the Amiga 500, that I got interested in the potential of using computers in the arts and later what would lead me to using CG (computer generated) visuals for film. That machine was way ahead of its time. I owned peripherals for it that ranged from 3D shutter glasses to sound sampling and video digitization. It was a good introduction to producing anaglyph 3D (the red-cyan glasses kind of 3D images) animation and real-time visuals at large events.
Getting to VR, it’s nothing more (but that’s simplifying) than3D in a 360 look around environment. My exposure to 3D in other related fields during a job stint I’d done, had me pitch 3D to Oil&Gas and Town planning officials.
This gave me invaluable insights into what it takes to tell a story visually – with the intent and impact of total immersion for the audiences. Even in the Oil and Gas industry, it’s not just seismic data sets being visualized in 3D. Stake holders putting in money to fund the next exploration project, want to be told a story. What better way, than to immerse them in the proposed site than inVirtual reality.
Q2.Tell us about the major turning points in your career and highlight some of your major works.
I’d started out early in Kuwait as a demonstrator and in sales, for Commodore, the makers of the Amiga computer. A turning point occurred with the Iraq invasion of Kuwait which brought me to India, and I got integrated into the nightclub scene with a difference – back in 1991, no one had mixed and piped, live stereo audio song samples though a nightclub’s sound system while projecting visuals at the same time.
Q3.How do you look at the world of VR, Immersive, AR, 3D Stereoscopy and how has it panned out in India when you compare it with the West? Where do you thinkthe Indian industryis lagging behind in all the above?
This led to my being contracted for live performances before “VJing” was even a term in the industry. Contracts to install hardware for visual entertainment resulted. It caught the eye of one of the bigger entertainment industry organizations – Wizcraft International who were, and I thinkstill are, very forward thinking.
I’d proposed to them the idea of taking their events to a worldwide audience via web-streaming. Again, this was around 1997 where both Microsoft and RealNetworks were the only streaming solutions existing and web video was the size of a large postage stamp.
Further down the line my interest in the medium led me to Dubai where I was then invited to Philips’ hi-tech campus in Eindhoven, Netherlands to interact with and offer expertise on auto-stereoscopic (3D without the need for glasses) content and visualization.
I was in parallel writing a lot of articles on stereoscopy, 3D filmmaking and the art of visual immersion using these mediums. James Cameron’s Avatar fuelled the renaissance of 3D movies and I found a lot of AAA studios visiting the Real Vision knowledgebase site I’d set up. Articles and topics culled from the website went into a book “Think in 3D” which I self-published on Amazon.
One day I got an Email from the Director of 3D for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo appreciating the book and then a few more prominent directors in Hollywood left reviews on the book. Think in 3D is now recommended reading as part of syllabus at the USC’s (University of Southern California) Immersive media course.
VR came next – after Facebook bought out Oculus and the Oculus rift headset was exactly the platform and medium I needed to showcase some of the hard sci-fi stories I had swirling in my head.
Turns out, VR filmmaking at that time (as recent as 2015) had no hardware or software support for creating and editing properly. People were creating flat 360 videos and calling it VR. I wanted it in stereoscopic 3D 360. The film, Dirrogate thus morphed into a VR graphic novel that’s a mix of stereoscopic 360 stop motion live action and well as live action “panels”. It was critically acclaimed for presenting ideas on VR filmmaking styles – motivated cuts, camera and scene staging for VR and more. Samsung licenced it for the GearVR platform and in 2017 it became the first VR film deal to be signed at Singapore’s Asia TV forum (ATF) market.
I’ve since conducted extensive masterclasses at Google (Dubai) for their agency partners on using VR and AR on theYouTubeplatform and Google’s AR offering, respectively.
Times Television India, had the foresight to investigate Immersive Journalism, which led to my devising a pilot project for them in 2017. Reporters, Exec producers and camera crew were trained to keep up with immersive journalism trends permeating the studios of big players like CNN, NY Times, and the BBC.
Currently I’m on contract with two OTT TV platforms based in India, to upgrade their in-house talent and infrastructure, readying them for Immersive Media production and to create a VR film with a feasibility study to take it episodic.
To me 3D, VR and AR are intertwined. For example, I see Augmented Reality as Virtual Reality where a scene has its CG “walls and ceiling” removed and the remaining digital content of the scene is grounded to a real world backdrop via computer vision assistance. The real-world backdrop is seen through either AR glasses (optical see-thru AR) or brought in via a camera (video see-thru) such as on mobile phones.
More to the point of the question, sadly India is always lagging in pioneering new tech – it’s the trader mentality and no appetite for risk that puts it behind the West, and for that matter, China; at least in this field. Today, all the VR cameras are designed and come from China. Where is India’s math prowess, BTech graduates etc. More importantly, why aren’t there concrete initiatives with an advanced game-plan in place to make sure patents and inventions in the Broadcast and Film industry coming out of India?
There is money here, but poorly implemented road-maps. I’m known for being blunt at talks on-stage, but I do so with motivation and a passion to see talent in India creating tangible output. One of the pioneers, Reliance, who India owes a big thank you for democratizing data access – took the initiative of creating a VR Lab that’s been operational I believe, for over a year. I want to see tangible, patent worthy processes, methodology or gear coming from there. That won’t happen unless a proper road-map with right mentors – who are capable of delivery - is in place.
Q4.Tell us about your current role/projects and what are your future goals?
My current role is as an on-contract Immersive Media advisor and I take up contracts in Singapore, The UAE, and India. I’m comfortable in these regions and would love to see them grow in spearheading new initiatives. It’s not just VR and AR, there’s so much more. TV platforms going digital need to know that “Immersive” is about building a platform that brings people together. They need to build a digital community – this is the way to guarantee survival in the over cluttered Digital TV space.
This is one of the initiatives I’m advising on along with the methodology of how to go about implementing it. One other goal is to reshape the education system in India to allow for creative-tech thinking.
I was fortunate to be invited last month to the IIIT Allahabad as part of a panel to recommend and offer advice on curriculum for an upcoming B.Tech course with a focus on Media Informatics. Such initiatives, when implemented with real road-maps are one of my goals.