When we attended the Full Indie Summit 2016, we heard from Kert Gartner when he introduced us to how he made the trailers for several virtual reality games. Of these included Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator—both prominent games that were commended for their excellent trailers.
An issue with VR trailers for games, or even Let’s Plays for that matter, is that the audience is not immersed in the same environment as the gamer. Oftentimes, in these videos, the audience will see a first-person gameplay of what the player sees—which isn’t usually the most engaging outside of VR. Or you’ll get videos that show how much fun a player is having from a real-world view perspective, a.k.a some person with a headset strapped to their head waving blindly around.
All in all, it’s clear that VR experiences are difficult to convey outside of VR. Kert Gartner found a solution to this when he rented a green screen studio and hired a crew and actors. It required recording various footages from different angles, such as of the player playing the game, as well as what the person was seeing, and also the environment they were immersed in. He would then composite the footages he had shot together in order to make the trailers you can now see.
But what if you can simulate mixed reality without all that work? Although Kert’s work is amazing, it’s unlikely YouTube Let’s Players (and certainly not Twitch live streamers) will be able to replicate this on a daily basis. And what options did smaller indie developers working with VR have? We passed by Blueprint Reality’s booth at CVR 2017 and saw that they were able to showcase their game with both the gamer and the world inside the game simultaneously on a TV screen. We inquired into how they were doing this live and it turns out they made a nifty little software called MixCast VR. Priced at $9.99 a month on Steam, you’ll be able to do mixed reality broadcasting and streaming!
We reached out to Blueprint Reality’s CTO, Ben Sheftel, to get more details on how MixCast VR can potentially help out indie developers and content creators!
Hey Ben! So what exactly is MixCast VR? How does it work?
MixCast VR is an easy way to create mixed reality videos. Mixed reality videos are simply a composite of video of someone who is in a VR experience, with that VR experience that they’re using, in real-time. It provides much better context for a spectator and is a great way to show people what a VR experience is really like when they’re just watching it on a 2D screen (like a TV, computer monitor or phone).
MixCast VR Studio, our command center, lets you configure all the required and optional settings surrounding mixed reality production before jumping into a VR application for mixed reality. Some aspects of mixed reality have been really tough to set up in the past, such as green screen keying and camera placement calibration, but we’ve managed to simplify the process and have gotten set-up time down to minutes.
When you’re ready to broadcast, our SDK loads in the configuration seamlessly, connects to the PC’s connected camera with DirectShow, then begins inserting it into the virtual scene where the player should be situated. The output of this process is then presented on the desktop window for streaming and recording, as well as being shown on a virtual display back to the user in VR. Because the player insertion (compositing) is done in-engine, developers are given flexibility in implementation, including custom player effects and additional graphics.
What problems are you trying to solve with MixCast? Why did you guys create this?
Currently, there are very limited options available for creating mixed reality video, and more generally, VR experience broadcasting. And the options that do exist are time-consuming, cumbersome and/or expensive. We’ve tried to simplify the process with MixCast VR in order to make the creation of mixed reality videos accessible to anyone. We want it to be easy for anyone—from game developers to streamers to people playing VR games at home—to make mixed reality videos that other people enjoy watching. And we want people to really understand what the VR experience is like when they’re watching it on a 2D screen. Especially people who have never tried VR themselves. If they’re more engaged in watching the experience that someone else is having, they may be more inclined to try it out for themselves.
How do you see this benefiting indie game developers?
Indie game developers who are creating VR games can highlight and show off those VR games using MixCast VR. They can create promotional videos that are more engaging for spectators. This is because you can actually see the user in the VR experience and see how they’re interacting with it. It makes much more sense for a spectator, especially someone who may not have tried VR previously. MixCast VR is also great for developers who want to stream or broadcast their game to generate more awareness and enthusiasm for their game. Streaming a VR game in mixed reality is more interesting and engaging to watch than just a first-person gameplay view from the player. Developers can also create Let’s Play videos that make more sense to someone watching; you can more easily understand the gameplay and what the player is doing when you’re watching in mixed reality view.
How easy is this to use for a Twitch streamer or a YouTuber? Can you quickly walk us through the steps?
MixCast has been designed from the start to be useful to users of any level. First, you open our application: MixCast VR Studio. This application walks the user through the several steps to get mixed reality up and running and can be used for testing the current setup. The main steps include selecting the real camera, deriving the real camera placement and parameters, selecting the background removal method desired (green screen or static subtraction), and keying out the background. It sounds like a bit of work but is handled in only a few clicks, with nearly all of the steps made possible in VR.
Once the mixed reality output has been set up (check out your In-VR display!), you can swap over to an application which has the MixCast VR SDK integrated, and start mixed reality output by clicking on the MixCast button. Simple as that!
How many games are currently integrated with MixCast?
We just launched MixCast VR a few months ago so we’re only in a small number of games at this time but we’re working with lots of developers (indies and bigger companies too) to integrate MixCast VR into their games.
What systems does MixCast VR work with? Are you guys planning to expand the systems it can work with?
At this time, MixCast VR works with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. We are currently evaluating other systems.
Any closing remarks?
If you’re developing a game or other VR experiences and are interested in having it work with MixCast VR, just download the SDK from the Unity Asset Store. It’s free and is a simple plug-in. Once your VR experience is MixCast-enabled, you can get MixCast VR Studio from Steam in order to set up your settings and get everything up and running!
Thanks once again to Ben for taking the time to explain MixCast VR! We at Mana Marketing were excited to discover this software, and are hoping that this will be a budget-friendly method that can help VR get one step closer to being properly showcased—whether it’s from gamers who are excited to share VR games with their audience, or for developers looking to make engaging trailers.