It’s just before sunset on Mars, and Buzz Aldrin is in his element. The Apollo astronaut is standing in the red sand in a beige flight jacket, greenhouses and living pods rise behind him, and Aldrin chats about why people should build a colony on the neighboring planet. The whole thing is just a film, of course, the Martian settlement a computer animation. What is special about “Cycling Pathways to Mars”: The viewer can move through the video as if through a real room, virtual reality glasses make this possible.
The start-up 8i from New Zealand is behind the new clip. The filmmakers invited space legend Aldrin, who flew to the moon in 1969, into a studio, filmed him with a variety of cameras from all perspectives and put the recordings together into a lifelike hologram. Combined with computer graphics, the founders created a science fiction world that breaks the boundaries of the big screen.
Perhaps it is the beginning of a completely new type of media. In 2009, Hollywood showed with the film “Avatar” how powerful cinema films can look when they are filmed with 3-D cameras. And for a good two years now, anyone has been able to film a scene in all directions with 360-degree cameras. Both techniques, however, have a limitation: the viewer cannot move when he is watching the films. This is exactly what volumetric videos – that’s the name of the new genre – are supposed to change. For the first time, films will be just as interactive as 3D computer games.
The media company is so enthusiastic about the technology that it recently put $ 27 million in 8i together with other investors. And the US start-up Lytro, which is working on a special camera for volumetric videos, has raised a total of $ 210 million in venture capital. Even corporations like,, and are now investing heavily in cameras and software to capture the world in depth.
In the future, we will meet film stars, athletes and star musicians as holograms – and beam ourselves to places where we have never been or which do not really exist.
High performance computer and laser sensor
The researchers are still experimenting with various technologies to produce volumetric videos: 8i or merging different camera perspectives on the computer to create a three-dimensional video of people or objects. The start-up HypeVR, on the other hand, combines 14 high-resolution cameras with a laser sensor, like the one found in self-driving cars, to measure the environment. And Lytro relies on light field technology: a grid of optical lenses catches light rays from different directions. A computer program can use the information to reconstruct where objects and people are in the room.