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Metastage and Departure Lounge have set up a new volumetric capture studio to bring humans into the metaverse. The volumetric capture studio will be in Vancouver, Canada and will be available for virtual reality, gaming, and metaverse developers to use.

These studios use 106 cameras to capture a person’s dynamic movements and turn them into highly realistic digital images. It enables studios to capture human models and convert them into digital forms for stories, games, and other experiences for mixed reality or traditional media.

Christina Heller, CEO of Los Angeles-based Metastage, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the partner company will be known as Metastage Canada, and it has been selected by Microsoft as the exclusive licensee for its volumetric capture technology in Western Canada.

“When we started Metastage in L.A., we didn’t know what it would be used for. There was a fundamental instinct that human performance would be essential for this new medium,” said Heller. “While we didn’t know exactly what the killer use case was going to be when we launched, we knew there would be amazing opportunities and only good things would come from a mechanism for bringing real people into metaverse platforms. And obviously, we still believe in that wholeheartedly.”

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Metastage Canada is the first 4D holographic capture facility of its kind in the region. The stage will launch in the spring and will be designated as the exclusive Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.Using Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studios technology, Metastage’s volumetric or ‘holographic’ capture process uses 106 12-megapixel machine-vision cameras to capture dynamic human performances. This rapidly generating photo-real, volumetric digital models inject new life into stories, games, and experiences for both immersive mixed reality and traditional media.

“It takes human performances and what I like about it most is it captures the essence of that performance in all of its sort of fluid glory, including clothing as well,” Heller said. “And so every sort of crease in every fold of what people are wearing comes across. You get these human performances that retain their souls. There is no uncanny valley with volumetric capture.”

Compared with other systems, Metastage produces exceptionally high-quality holograms that reduce the amount of ‘clean up’ or post-processing required, Heller said. Metastage holograms have been used in applications ranging from training to fashion to entertainment.

Departure Lounge will operate Metastage Canada as part of a comprehensive set of technologies designed to transfer humans and objects into and out of the ‘Metaverse,’ helping to facilitate the next generation of immersive content.

“We can’t have the metaverse be only synthetic avatars and animated assets,” said James Hursthouse, CEO of Departure Lounge, in an interview. “The uses are really broad and when you are working with a recognizable figure, you want the most authenticity possible.”

Costs run into the millions of dollars for each studio, Heller said. But she noted the company has been scrappy and been able to generate considerable revenues since it debuted in 2018. The company has done more than 200 productions since opening.

“It’s a pretty significant amount of hardware to be installed in a place,” Heller said. “It’s top-of-the-line equipment and so there is a decent amount of fundraising and all of that has to come together in order to get this kind of thing off the ground.”

James Hursthouse (middle left) and Christina Heller (middle right) show off Metastage.

James Hursthouse, CEO of Departure Lounge, said in an interview he was excited to work with Metastage. British Columbia is home to one of the world’s largest clusters of mixed reality companies, including Microsoft’s own holographic group, and a robust digital content industry in which the application of holograms in virtual and real-time
production is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Hursthouse said he expects significant demand for the holographic capture stage in this region as the world moves forward into the era of the metaverse, or the 3D spatial internet.

Hursthouse said the project was in the works for almost two years, as it takes a lot to put a volumetric capture studio together. Volumetric capture offers different challenges than motion-capture work. You don’t have to put a bunch of balls on a spandex suit for the actor. But it takes a ton of cameras to capture all of the angles needed to render a person in 3D. In addition to the cameras, it has a massive adjustable truss system, sky panels, and a bunch of Sennheiser shotgun mics.

Heller said the Vancouver studio is a carbon copy of the studio in Los Angeles, which is getting constant usage. Metastage rents it out to game companies or filmmakers or others who simply want to capture a loved family member for a kind of immortal digital tribute.

Heller said that the Los Angeles studio scanned a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor as well as a Black Panther from the 1960s. Heller said she captured her own mother on the Los Angeles stage.

“That’s a treasured capture for me for the rest of my life,” Heller said.

In Vancouver, Hursthouse said he hopes to be able to capture First Nation storytellers and elders in the region.

“It’s exciting for Vancouver because we have that mix of all of the mixed reality companies in a cluster,” Hursthouse said.

Metastage Canada will be housed at the Departure Lounge facility in the heart of the Centre for Digital Media district in downtown Vancouver. The Departure Lounge facility is part commercial business, part industry-academic partnership hub, helping to train the next generation of digital content creators through work-integrated learning programs.

These programs serve students, as well as offer mentorship and guidance for startups and under-represented groups. Departure Lounge has established its own creative services team under the guidance of volcap industry superstar, Adam Rogers, to develop applications and experiences that incorporate holograms.

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Metastage with the opening of Departure Lounge in Vancouver,” said Steve Sullivan, general manager of Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studios, in a statement. “James and the Departure Lounge team have impressed us with their knowledge and passion for Mixed Reality, and combined with the experience and reach of Metastage, we believe they’ll have a huge impact in Canada and beyond.”

Departure Lounge was acquired by AMPD Ventures in December. Metastage has 10 people, while Departure Lounge has eight.

“I called it Departure Lounge when I started it was because it’s the place that you go for your journey to the metaverse and so this Metastage is very in line with that,” Hursthouse said. “It’s actually very prescient to be called Metastage,” as it was named well before the metaverse became uber-popular in 2021 as Facebook changed its name to Meta.

Beyond games, the studio has been used for projects in sports, music, fashion, medical training, police training, and more.

“The really creative and visionary people come to us with their ideas, and we get to help make it come to life and see what they’re thinking,” Heller said.

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