The ultimate virtual illusion with Zoom
Drew Barrymore has done it1. Oprah and Obama have done it2. And now AV1 has collaborated with a business that has become iconic during the pandemic, video communications giant Zoom, to get in on the action and go one better than all of the above.
We’re talking, of course, about the technical and audio visual expertise it takes to create the visual illusion of placing two people in the same room when, in fact, they are located thousands of kilometres apart.
Drew Barrymore and Oprah did it for their talk shows in 2020, stretching the illusion from one coast of the United States to the other. AV1 and Zoom took it – literally – a whole lot further, with a Q&A between New York and Sydney. As part of Zoom’s “Innovators at Work” webinar series, Zoom’s Global Deputy CIO Gary Sorrentino interviewed New South Wales Department of Education deputy secretary and chief operating officer, David Withey, from an Airbnb in New York, with David based in AV1’s virtual event studio in Waterloo.
To achieve the illusion of closeness, a third of the view projected out to attendees was the natural backdrop of the Airbnb in New York and the other two thirds of the shot was a still image, with the Department of Education COO sitting against a green screen in Sydney and posited into the New York setting by the Zoom Event Services team in Austin, Texas, who were splicing the two different inputs on the fly as the event went live to create a composite reality, virtually indistinguishable from a situation in which the two participants were truly face to face.
To achieve the I-can’t-believe-they’re-not-together effect, AV1 and the Zoom Event Services team spent almost half a day in cross-continental rehearsals, tweaking the images and making sure the angles and eyeline were correct.
The screen at which the interviewee looked was placed at a particular spot in the studio and then cameras were placed strategically in order to achieve the right shots and angles.
Apart from the fact that the actual talent was about a foot taller than the stand-in used during the rehearsals, the webinar was smooth sailing, thanks to the well-equipped Waterloo studio.
In the end, despite a New York thunderstorm also hanging around at the time of broadcast, everything went without a hitch and the result looked seamless to the audience.