Starbreeze has acquired visual effects (VFX) studio Nozon for €7.1M (~$7.7M), a Belgium-based company known for their pre-rendered PresenZ VR technology which promises to bring ‘Pixar levels’ of visual quality to real-time VR scenes with positional tracking.
PresenZ, introduced by Nozon in 2015, is a rendering technique especially created for VR that allows for what they call ‘interactive parallax’ in VR movies. Unlike real-time rendered experiences like Oculus Story Studio’s Henry, which is necessarily limited by the number of polygons your system can render at any given moment, projects created with PresenZ allow the user a high-level of detail for a comparatively lower hardware cost, and all while maintaining a measure of positional tracking.
According to our own Executive Editor Ben Lang, who got a hands-on with a demo last year, the results are pretty astounding, but has a few inherent limitations.
“I’ve seen it for myself and it’s everything they say it is: the visuals of pre-rendered CGI with the positional tracking parallax that’s normally only possible with a scene rendered in real-time. The area in which you can move your head about the scene is only about a meter square. If you hit the edge of that area the scene will fade out as the view of the scene in the area beyond that space has not been pre-rendered.”
By pre-rendering more of the scene, and connecting together rendered spaces, it’s possible to create larger viewing areas; late last year Nozon demonstrated a room-scale space rendered with their technology.
Nozon CEO Tristan Salome told FxGuide that creating computer generated (CG) VR film with PresenZ is “exactly the same as a standard 3D movie or VFX movie. It’s just at the very end of the process [that] we mess with the camera, our plugin, and we mess with the file output to output our own file format.”
Considering Starbreeze has been striking up partnerships left and right, most notably with IMAX to create a series of out-of-home centers for high-end VR with the StarVR headset, a 210 degree field of view headset designed by Starbreeze, it’s clear the game studio wants to play a central role in burgeoning field of VR film.
And with Presenz, it may make premium VR experiences less expensive to make and to run, because while headset manufacturers like Oculus are trying their best to lower the barrier of entry with less expensive GPUs and better rendering tech, it’s hard to imagine what GPU setup you’d need to play—well—anything on something like StarVR’s massive dual 5.5 inch 2560×1440 displays, or any future headset that aims to push rendering tech as rigorously as StarVR has.