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Big Interview: Brainstorm Multimedia

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Since our first Virtual Set broadcast in 1993, Ricardo Montesa, CEO and founder of Brainstorm Multimedia, has had a long and distinguished track record of delivering state-of-the-art 3D graphics solutions to broadcasters from all over the world. Infinity Set, Brainstorm's latest generation virtual set application, is the ultimate solution that he has introduced to the market, enabling the integration of virtual sets, augmented reality and on-air graphics, all in a single, standalone and easy-to-use system. The awards that Infinity Set has won are justly deserved, with the IABM's "Game Changer" award summing up its outstanding capabilities. Once again, Brainstorm has changed the rules of the game, giving users a whole new set of unique and highly practical features.

BFV: What does Brainstorm have in store for NAB 2016?
Ricardo: This year we'll have our biggest booth ever and for the first time our demo theatre will feature two different areas which give us greater flexibility for our eye-catching presentations. Not only that, but we'll also let visitors into the green screen theatre to see themselves in the virtual set thanks to the part of the booth that we're calling "The Laboratory". And as always, we'll be pushing the envelope of the possible into the realms of the impossible at NAB.

The new booth sounds impressive, but what about Brainstorm's products themselves? Any new features on the virtual set applications?
We want to focus on highlighting the award winning capabilities of our patented TrackFree technology which are unique to Infinity Set, our virtual set application. For example we have further enhanced our hands tracking technology which allows a presenter in a virtual environment to trigger graphics and animations with the simple movement of their hands! No special gloves or tracking dots required, just your bare hands. You don't even need a tracking system. Infinity Set recognizes the position of the moving hands, or feet for that matter, just from the standard video feed. This tracking capability is one of the features which won us the IABM Game Changer award.

You previously discussed the company's TrackFree technology with BFV. Why is this unique in the virtual world? What advantages does TrackFree offer to users?
TrackFree is an entirely new and unique approach to virtual set production. In virtual studios, you can usually only choose between trackless and tracking systems. The first being easy to use but restrictive in its capabilities, and the second being much more flexible but much more expensive and complex to use as well. TrackFree represents the middle ground between the two. In effect, the freedom and sophistication of tracking systems but at the much lower cost and with the same user-friendliness of trackless systems. This enables Infinity Set users to perform camera movements that standard trackless systems simply can't do. Also, the presenter is able to move more freely, sideways as well as forwards and backwards, and not remain in a fixed position which is a major restriction of trackless systems. The hand tracking also stems from TrackFree's ability to pinpoint the spatial location of the presenter. In a nutshell, TrackFree allows users to do about 80% of what a tracking system can do, and then some –and at costs comparable to standard trackless virtual set applications. Our other features, TeleTransporter and 3D Presenter, are also part of TrackFree.

Tell me about the TeleTransporter and what sets it apart from everything else in the market?
Our Video TeleTransporter has the unique ability of allowing users to insert a presenter inside a live scenario at a remote location as if he or she was "transported" there. And in a highly realistic way complete with shadows, reflections and colour correction. This feature combines 3D virtual sets with real characters and live or pre-recorded video feeds, all moving accordingly with precise perspective matching. This allows presenters, as well as other content, to be inserted into videos and "report" from remote locations. Picture this. The presenter is actually in the Infinity Set virtual studio environment at the broadcast facilities, right? And then, with our TeleTransporter, the presenter becomes a "virtual traveler", transported to and inserted in, say, a football stadium during a match between Real Madrid and Barcelona to report from pitch-side. Or be teletransported to Washington to report from within the Oval Office, or for that matter, from any other place around the globe using live tracked feeds or pre-recorded content.

What else can you tell me about the Video TeleTransporter?
Well, this is Infinity Set's most advanced feature and has no precedent in the market. It is intended for experienced users who want to take their already high-end productions to new levels, enhancing program content and captivating their viewers. No other virtual set provider can match this feature. The TeleTransporter builds on Infinity Set's other key features which all stem from the TrackFree technology. These are the tracking capabilities mentioned previously as well as the 3D Presenter which in themselves are very appealing to those customers who want to start with a very affordable and easy-to-use Infinity Set system.

What's 3D Presenter?
Our 3D Presenter enhances the realism of the talent inserted within the virtual set by turning him or her into a true 3D representation of the live presenter from a video feed. This means that the presenter is not a simple superimposed 2D sticker over the 3D virtual studio environment, but an actual 3D object embedded within the virtual set. Much like any composition from Aston 3D, our graphics creation, CG and playout solution, may be inserted in the virtual scene.

What difference does turning the talent from a sticker into a 3D object make?
It allows the presenter to interact with both real and 3D elements within the scene. For example, shadows over a real desk and simultaneously with reflections on a virtual floor. Manipulating the depth of field relative to the presenter is also now possible so, as another example, the background could be de-focused. All this creates much greater realism than has been possible to achieve until now. And the shadows, reflections and depth of field manipulation cannot be done with the usual overlaid sticker we are so used to seeing as a representation of the presenter in other virtual set applications. Once again, only Brainstorm can do this. And, just to emphasis a previous point I made, do it without the help of sophisticated tracking systems with their associated cost and complexity!

What does the future have in store for Brainstorm?
We plan to further enhance our products, consolidating them as references in the market. I can say with one hundred percent certainty that our heavy investment in R&D will carry on, and we will continue to pride ourselves in being an independent company controlling our own destiny. Our aim has always been to push boundaries and to strive for perfection. Yes, what we have now is great, but there is always room for improvement. We can't just look back at our achievements to date as we believe that the key is to always strive for something better. Our desire to improve ourselves, to look beyond what is expected from us, is what defines us. That's Brainstorm.

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