HoloLens Field Test – Samantha Ho

THE ISSUE:

Within the arduous process of creating a film or television show, the development or pre-production process requires the most accuracy, and often takes up a significant amount of time and money. During this time, creators must envision their own projects to the best of their abilities, to make the literal creation of these visions a success. For location scouters and their respective creators, it is imperative that they are able to envision the story in each prospective space. In the event that you cannot clear the space (i.e. Times Square), this task becomes that much more difficult.

THE HYPOTHESIS:

With the ability to not only place digital objects within a real space, but also record these spaces, augment reality now provides creators with the ability to marry their imagination to their surroundings. Utilizing Microsoft’s HoloLens, I plan to test the success of this technology in location scouting a furnished, lit room and a more open space with direct sunlight. I will note not only the different skills it provides and whether they work, but also the experience of the wearer (myself) while using it. While I believe that there are merits to using the HoloLens for scouting, I believe that the technology still needs to grow to become the better alternative.

THE DEVICE:

  • Wear: The HoloLens is designed with comfort and ease in mind. It is wireless, relatively lightweight, and has an adjustable strap.
  • Controls: Utilizes three different “natural” ways to interact: Gaze, Gestures, and Voice.
  • Price: Although the “Development Edition” is currently priced at $3,000, it is possible that this technology will become more accessible and cheaper in the future.
  • Apps: Using Microsoft Windows 10, the device has multiple applications available. Mixed Reality Capture allows for pictures and videos to be saved and shared. Whether it’s Skype or the Holo Studio, there are growing options for both play and work.

FIELD TEST | SPACE 1:

For my first space, I used the Innovation Lab. Including furniture, a small open space, and a lack of natural light, the room was a good test for more enclosed locations. I placed two animated human type holograms and created a sign to represent decorations or set dressings. In addition to these placed objects, I also placed a web page on the side to represent possible notes or emails from the director. The difficulty of placing the objects ranged on their size. Average or small sized items, like those in the video, were relatively easy to move and resize. The bigger they got, it became harder to edit after placing because the objects would overlap. Due to the overlapping items, the device was often confused and couldn’t register your gestures to the right items. Although location scouters may not place objects that are bigger than the room in the space, very big items would often lose their menu options to the floor. In addition to testing the size of placed items in the space, I also tested the possibility of recording certain angles within the space. For some location scouting, cinematographers or Directors of Photography will accompany to test the feasibility of their vision. Not pictured in this video are my attempts to place items in the furnished areas. Depending on whether the furnishings or other people are needed for production, the HoloLens ability to recognize the environment and work around it  can be difficult. It is hard to place holograms through tables and in moving crowded because of the device’s early difficulty to pick and choose.

FIELD TEST | SPACE 2

I employed the same tactics in the space with more natural light. I wanted to test the holograms opacity when mixed with more direct sunlight and backdrops that weren’t just white walls. In both tests, the holograms seemed to remain visible and stood out against the bright background. The tinted vision from the device was also a little bit supportive in blocking the light from my own eyes and allowed me to view the space more easily. I walked around the object and tested different angles to mimic the work of creators who were also scouting spaces.

FIELD TEST | USER EXPERIENCE

While the hands-free, “natural” work of using the device frees a location scouter from carrying multiple cameras and his/her phone, there were some difficulties with using the headset for long periods of time. The first issue was the discomfort of the headset after a long period of time. Maybe it was because I had tightened the headset too much to keep the same perspective, but I got a headache and could easily feel the weight of the headset after about a half an hour of using the device. With any device that is wireless, charging becomes an issue. The headset runs many programs and the battery didn’t last as long as I had predicted. In that time span, the battery went down by at least 10%. I would expect location scouters who go to more remote areas to run into this problem easily. The biggest problem, that came up while using the HoloLens and is a big setback for users, but not recordings, is the small frame of augmented reality that you can view in the space. For large objects and crowded spaces, it was difficult to view the entire environment with added materials. Stepping back helped, but kept me from adjusting certain objects.

The issues of field of view were fixed in the presentation of the recording. Filling in the blanks and blind spots in the device, the recording shows the environment in full, with the items placed. While it was difficult to view the entire hologram in the same field of view as my regular vision, the recording made up for that.

CONCLUSION:

After using the HoloLens to test certain instances of location scouting, I have concluded that my hypothesis was correct. While there are merits to marrying imagination and environment with the accuracy of technology, especially the surprise of its success in varying light sources, the technology has too many setbacks to qualify it as a suitable alternative to trump the current process. On a basic level, the HoloLens is best not to be brought along for scouting, but does provide the ability to show a director’s vision to other viewers for other aspects of the filmmaking process. Whether it’s to discuss a certain vision for the actual set during production or to allow an actor to view a potential CGI set for their green screen space, the possibilities for the HoloLens on film sets are growing with the use of new technology and less practicality. There is definitely a future for this device for creators that is slowly being realized.