Visual Digitalization & Industrialization and Super Visual Experience in the 21st Century

Visual Digitalization & Industrialization and Super Visual Experience in the 21st Century

By Gordon Cheng, CEO of Cameron Pace Group Asia & China

China will become a leading player in the 3D UHD visual technology space. The data size of high quality 3D UHD contents, including movies, concerts, shows and sports event broadcasts using latest technologies will reach petabyte-level, which ultimately will require a super network to transmit, giving audience the ultimate immersive and interactive experience.

In December 2009, the blockbuster Hollywood science fiction movie Avatar was released worldwide. While topping the global box office, Avatar has also ignited a new wave of visual technology revolutions. Director James Cameron and his team presented amazing 3D visual effects to the audience through innovative technologies, creating a unique immersive movie experience. Movies have since entered the 3D era, in particular in China. James Cameron and Vince Pace, a top cinematographer/engineer, jointly founded Cameron Pace Group (CPG), to lead R&D in the global digital film industry and has significantly contributed to many innovative technologies such as 3D stereoscopic visions. Films and various contents produced by Cameron or applying CPG's technologies have generated over USD12 billion in box-office and revenue, and won 10 Oscars and Emmy Awards. In China, an exclusive joint venture (Cameron Pace Group China, CPGC) was set up, with the aim to promote new cutting edge technologies in the digital visual areas, especially in the 3D areas.

Visual effects and Movie/TV markets are booming worldwide and in China

Movie/TV industrialization & digitalization have fully taken off in the US since the 1970s and 1980s. In the 21st century, the global contents have also became more diversified to cater for a younger audience group. In addition to good stories and plots, the young audience groups are also seeking for high quality and stunning visual effects, regardless whether they are watching a 2-hour movie, 20-minute short video, or even a 20-second advertisement. This new era has also stimulated the rapid growth in the visual effect industries, both in movie and TV/streaming industries. This trend is becoming even more obvious in China in recent years. Market studies indicated indicated that demand for UHD visual contents in China have increased from RMB 1 trillion in 2019 to RMB 4 trillion in 2022, representing a compound annual growth rate of close of 60%. In addition, there has been a 14-fold increase in the number of movie screens in China between 2009 and 2019, with annual viewers increasing from less than 200 million to over 1.7 billion. In particular, after release of Avatar 1, the number of 3D screens had grown from less than 5,000 screens in 2009 to now more than 70,000 screens, making China the highest number of 3D screens in the world. As digitalization & industrialization of the film and TV/streaming markets continues to progress, the visual effect industries are prospering.

Visual Digitalization & Industrialization and Stereoscopic Technologies

Today's both movie and TV/streaming productions have evolved from simple shootings at the actual scenes/sites to shootings at digital stages or virtual production stages. In the new Avatar movie series, many scenes even utilize state-of-the-art under-water visual capture technologies. In the coming years, James Cameron and Gordon Cheng are committed to build more advanced digital platforms in China, creating more higher-quality contents in the most effective manners and will be featuring more Chinese characteristics and features. Meanwhile, James Cameron, Gordon Chen their teams are also committed to bring more world's leading visual and digital production technologies and methodologies to the China market, while integrating with the China’s leading ultra-broadband, AI, cloud, edge computing, and storage technologies and solutions to create and share more high quality 3D contents with both Chinese and global audiences.

In the near future, advanced AI driven 3D live capture technologies will also be applied to live both cinematic and TV/streaming broadcasts. The new AI driven 3D live capture technologies used in Avatar series will be utilized to broadcast live sporting events, concerts and performances, allowing audiences to watch live contents from either 6-inch mobile phone screens, 60-inch TV screens, or even 600-inch movie screens, while delivering stunning viewing and immersive experience.

In terms of glass free 3D stereoscopic technologies, with the development of the latest lenticular, laser, light field and hologram related technologies, we believe that glass-free 3D will become a reality, delivering the audience the immersive experience without the need of any glasses or wearable devices.

Ultra-broadband, AI, and cloud drive the evolution of visual digitalization & industrialization

From the historical 2D low resolutions to the coming 3D UHD era, visual digitalization & industrialization is posing much higher requirements on the networks. For example, the uncompressed and compressed data rates of 3D+8K images can reach over 60 Gbps and 600 Mbps respectively. As such, without ultra broadband and 5G, audiences will not be able to enjoy such high-quality 3D UHD visual contents. From a different perspective, high-end content productions are also demanding for much larger storage and rendering requirements. For example, from Avatar in 2009 to Alita in 2019, the rendering time and storage capacity had increased multiple folds. This means that in the coming future, the requirements for advanced solutions such as 5G, AI, cloud-based computing/ rendering, as well as virtual productions are becoming more obvious, as these are effective ways to drive the overall production efficiencies.

Without advanced technologies such as 5G, AI, cloud computing and virtual productions etc., traditional ways of visual effect productions are becoming more cumbersome and complicated. With the new technologies, we believe that over 70% of the pre-production, production and post production works can eventually be semi or fully automated. In the visual effect spaces, we believe that AI and other new technologies will bring automation in three different phases. The first phase involves increasing automation in the rendering, special effects production, and rotoscoping areas; the second phase involves increasing automations in design, texturing, and coloring areas; while the third phase involves increase automation areas such as grading. AI will improve production efficiency considerably, and we believe that works that used to take 1 to 2 years to complete can eventually be completed within only 1 to 2 months.

In the upcoming AI and cloud era, we believe new technologies will be able to reduce the labor production cost by 30% to 70% and improve the transmission efficiency by 20% to 50% over the next five years. Future digital visual production will no longer rely on high intensive labor force and fixed locations. As an increasing number of advanced visual effect technologies are applying to live broadcasts of sports, performance and events in the future, storage and real-time rendering capabilities will have much higher requirements. Telecom operators' transmission networks will also be crucial to content producers. The leading networks, storage, AI, and other advanced infrastructures built by the Chinese telecom operators will advance China's visual digital industry to a global leading level in the coming decades.

Visual digitalization & industrialization will change our lives

In the long term, CPG and CPGC are aiming to develop and promote more cutting-edge technologies, especially in the 3D areas, in the movie, TV, streaming, mobile and even gaming industries. We hope that eventually more small businesses and even individuals will be able to share the benefits of these advanced technologies at lower costs and ease of access. With the supports of the new advanced technologies and networks, we believe more high-quality visual contents can be created and produced more efficiently, whether those contents are PGC or UGC. We are convinced that with the development of ultra-broadband, cloud, IoT, and AI technologies, we will continuously provide the latest visual technologies to enterprises and consumers, and enable ordinary people to create content like movie directors. In the near future, we are intending to create high-quality visual contents much more efficiently and share it with more audiences through advanced real-time direct shooting, digital production, transmission and display technologies.

CPGC is proud to work with Huawei, operators, and top industry partners in China to produce more remarkable high quality visual contents more efficiently and cost-effectively. These great contents will be shared with more audience in China and around the world. We hope to bring every audience a more unique and immersive experience.