During the ISE trade show in Barcelona, Stéphane Delouche, EZtrack Head Of Sales, and Antonio Lacayo, EZrack Sales Representative both sat down with Demian Sabini, Virtual Production Executive Producer at Grup Mediapro, for an in-depth interview about our latest developments in camera tracking & lens calibration solutions. The interview took place in the 275-square-meter Content Studio, which hosted daily industry panel discussions, featuring an LED virtual set with AR extensions and our very own EZtrack system on a steadicam.
Demian Sabini – I am sitting with EZtrack today: Stéphane, Head of Sales, Antonio, Sales Representative for Spain & Latin America. Very glad to have you here and we’re going to be talking about your very cool suite of camera tracking solutions.So tell us what is EZtrack?
Antonio Lacayo – So basically, EZtrack is a camera & lens tracking system for Virtual Production. The main difference compared to other tracking solutions on the market is that you can combine EZtrack with different tracking methodologies. We have marker-less to marker-based systems (with active infrared markers). We can also work with the Motion Capture systems like OptiTrack or Vicon and we can also track PTZ cameras that support FreeD protocol.
Demian Sabini – That’s excellent and in fact I think it’s a nice set of features that really differentiates you from the rest, the fact that you’ve actually made it open. (…) I guess what brought you to this conclusion is that you need different tracking solutions depending on the type of production requirements. One thing that I love about EZtrack is that it’s really ready to rock any situation from fiction production, film, series, commercial and obviously broadcast or Live Events. Very powerful, it makes it very versatile.
Let’s talk a little bit about the actual nature of your main Lighthouse system!
Stéphane Delouche – Of course, so in fact we’ve been working in Virtual Production for the past 10 years. We started with on-set Previz for cinema with a first system called Solidtrack (..) which has been replaced by EZtrack over the past few years. It was a depth camera so you can scan your environment and then localize your camera. We were very lucky to even sell one system to James Cameron! So that’s where we come from, previz on-set.
And then we figured out “okay there is interesting trackers and tracking tech for VR, especially with HTC Vive”. Then we thought, with our expertise in Virtual production, with new techs, new 3D engines, let’s start to revamp the system into something more professional, affordable and easier to operate. Hence the name of EZtrack because we definitely want to democratize camera tracking for Virtual Production.
Demian Sabini – That’s definitely something I can relate to. I’m very happy to have you guys here because EZtrack is our main tracking tool for the past three years and I think you’ve touched on two areas that are very key to an emerging model of production: operability & affordability. (..) And in this regard you know we’re in Barcelona, what is your view of Virtual Production in the Barcelona area now that you’re here?
Antonio Lacayo – Well, I think like in most of Europe at the moment we see many many Virtual Production Studios being created, many production houses integrating these new technologies. We’re at ISE 2023 where we see a lot of LED panels that are being integrated for in-camera VFX, you also mentioned the use of Unreal Engine, which has been a revolutionary tool. And we hope that Barcelona becomes a big reference for Virtual Production in Europe soon.
Demian Sabini – Yes, thank you, I think we can agree on that, I think we’re really betting for this new model here and we’re not kidding around, we’re very sure that this has come to stay!
Let’s talk about the new Hub, what makes the new Hub (Gen.2) particular?
Stéphane Delouche – Beyond the smaller size format and fancy blue color, we added a Timecode entry for post-production and the opportunity to (..) natively record the tracking data and export it in FBX file format, so you can directly work in Nuke and DaVinci.
Antonio Lacayo – We’ve had the chance to work on some very cool Cinema projects recently, mainly Pinocchio and Comandante. I think we’ve had a great learning process during those two projects to really understand what are the current needs for the cinema industry, in how to incorporate this new technology and use it effectively in post-production.
Demian Sabini – (…)Let’s talk about EZprofile, because we already had a nice system for calibrating lenses that you could actually teach to your clients which was very nice but now it’s like wow what a leap, right? Please tell us about EZprofile.
Antonio Lacayo – When we explain what lens calibration is, we say that it’s like getting the ID card of your lens, meaning that we want to replicate the physical characteristics of a lens in your virtual camera. We wanted to come up with a universal solution, meaning that you can export your lens file to your preferred pipeline, it can be Unreal Engine, Aximmetry, Zero Density, Pixotope and all the other great render engines that are out there.
So EZprofile is based on captured image processing, the software will guide you through zoom and focus points to take some pictures and then the software will do an interpolation between those points. We’ll have a nice lens curve at the end that you can refine if there are some tweaks to make and then you can export your lens profile. To give you an idea about the time frame, for Cinema lenses, just focus range, you’re done in about 30 minutes, for broadcast lenses, more complex lenses, you’re done in about one hour and a half or two hours to calibrate a full broadcast lens.
Demian Sabini – That’s a milestone guys!Well, I’m glad we went through the whole spectrum (…) we should mention that we’re actually running EZtrack as we speak in this interview we have a very very nice steadicam moving around us in this virtual production environment with your Swan tracker, with your V2 and with only three base stations that cover the area and it’s working wonderfully and I’d like to just take this chance to thank you for coming for powering this ISE and with your technology and your knowledge and as I said I hope this is the first one of many more!
To watch the full-length interview, click here