CAPTURING high quality volumetric holograms that are web and mobile ready

The Lightframe Co. (TLC) was a volumetric product studio, with a mission to simplify volumetric capture and to help brands and creators with little technical training to understand and adopt volumetrically captured performers into their products, services and experiences. 

Together with Microsoft, we partnered to bring a pop-up stage that ran from August to October 2019. During that time, TLC gave over 150 tours, organized by organic word of mouth only; and had guests with social posts that enjoyed over 200k views. 

The Lightframe Co. was unfortunately too early for the New York City market, and was sunset in early 2020.

The Vision

As we move into an era where real-time game engines dominate digital workflows in immersive media entertainment, spatial computing, experiential marketing activations, enterprise training, and beyond; the need for bringing high-fidelity, authentic performances of recognizable talent into real-time game engines has never been greater. 

Volumetric capture simplifies a lot of the hitherto convoluted process of delivering the verisimilitude of a human being onto a digital set; and crossing the ‘uncanny valley’ divide. However the technology is still nascent and mostly unknown outside of a small community of creators and technologists. It is our hope that with our combined background in agency work, brand relationships, and content creation, that we would be able to educate, empower and simplify the use of such technology in time to come.


The Technology

During our previous tenure at Viacom NEXT, we spent a significant amount of time assessing all available solutions and capture formats. From lightfields to traditional scan/rig/animate; we discovered that for most situations where performers’ availability on set was a scarce resource, volumetric capture still persists as the most cost-effective and time-efficient solution. 

Since 2016, we have been working with the Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture group and we had found their capture solution to still determinably be the best in class; not only in their capture quality, but especially with their astonishingly light compression/delivery formats and Unity/Unreal integrations which allow for their captures to be viewable on the web and mobile. As such it was an easy decision to partner with them on the Pop-Up Stage in New York City.

All souvenir captures were available for free for our guests to take home. Via a proprietary app, they were able to drop their holograms into their world, take a video, and to share on social media. Many of our guests went on to create videos that surprised even us.

Iterative Organizational Design

We had some insights for an organizational structure by looking at what the present Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Stage licensees have done; though functionally similar, we opted to perform less like a production stage and more like a product studio where market discovery takes precedence. 

As such, in consultation with the leadership founding team, I proposed the structure of TLC to be market led, and vertically integrated, with overlaps where handoffs were necessary. 

In our leadership structure, the CEO is responsible for high-level strategic decisions, as well as fundraising and high-level operations. The CCO manages day-to-day operations, concept pitching, technology evangelism, and client management. The CMO populates the pipeline with work, new business relationships, and would supervise and train future sales teams. 

Operationally, the Head of Capture is responsible for the process of capturing all the footage, including stage design and management of all our hardware. Our Technical Director manages the processing of all footage that comes from the stage, optimizing the assets, and in the product ideation, creation, and potential ownership of future tools and services that streamlines volumetric capture.

In practice, as is the case of every startup, all team members wear multiple hats (we all chipped in to build the pop-up stage with the team from Microsoft, for instance) and it’s likely that as the organization shifts and changes, so will the roles will be redefined.

The TLC Team

Rob Ruffler

David Liu

Jim Franzen

Head of Capture
Ben Schwartz

Technical Director
Nate Turley

A shot of our stage during the early set up phase, with servers and equipment out in the open. The space was eventually retrofitted with sound-proofed curtains around the servers, and a dedicated 'green room' corner with furniture and dressing stations for talent.
Ben our Head of Capture calibrating the stage with the Octolith - a wheeled calibration device fondly named as such by Spencer Reynolds, Stage Manager at Microsoft Mixed Reality Capure Studios.
A closeup shot of the IR floods (and a GoPro) that make up part of the towers between every column of light.