The SHRM president began the conference with a speech about the future direction of the society and the profession. To the attendees watching the stage, he appeared to be a sole figure on a large green wasteland. But on the two 16-by-20-foot main screens, as well as on the eight delay screens flanking the audience, the executive appeared to be standing in front of a 20-foot-tall “star gate.” The CGI animation made the center set piece disappear, putting in its place a whirling, humming structure crackling with energy bolts. On cue, the executive stepped across a painted mark on the stage. On-screen, he was suddenly transported to Greece, then Africa, then Times Square and, finally, the moon.
There is a one-frame lag between the video I-mag and the CGI digital image of the person, says Robin Taylor, owner of VideoMon, which specializes in doing road-shows for rock bands. The frame is buffered so that the audience does not see the difference between the live and the virtual images. A bit trickier is the need to keep the live sound in sync with the digital display. Sound-delay circuitry was used to keep everything in sync, he explains.
In one of the most effective moments of the SHRM conference, an engraved crystal bowl rose on a virtual pedestal from the floor of the stage. As names were called for the awards ceremony, the display screens showed the recipients walking behind the bowl. In real time, the computers interpolated the live characters and the crystal bowl so that the image of the recipients could be seen directly through the glass with realistic distortion.
“I was really pleased with what we accomplished,” says Block. “It worked because it was produced flawlessly. It looked seamless. People were impressed.” If anything, Block feels in retrospect that she and the producers might have under-utilized the VR capabilities. “The hardest challenge was to understand what it could and couldn’t do. Maybe we held back a bit too much.”
Next time SHRM goes virtual, she says, they will let their imaginations take them wherever they want to go.
Robert L. Lindstrom, former executive editor of AVVMMP, is the executive director of The Digital Exploration Society (http://www.digitalexplorers.com/).
Photographs by Michael Sexton
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