REFUGE: a look at the entertainment of tomorrow

We close our tour of b<>com's stand at the latest IRT forum in Nantes by stepping into the movie theater that the Advanced Media Coding lab had built to screen REFUGE.

Jean-Yves Aubié, could you explain what REFUGE is?

It's an experimental short film designed to use technological innovation to tell a story. The idea was to give a screenwriter "carte blanche" to push the limits of what can be done with Ultra High-Definition images and spatialized audio, two of the technologies we're working on at b<>com. Thibaut Duverneix, a young Canadian director (from the company BLVD) agreed to the project, together with Jimmy Lee, the production house of Sidlee, an international communications agency.

Jean-Yves Aubié, Advanced Media Coding lab Manager

Did it work?

We wanted to test the immersive potential of these new formats, and the results were very promising. The combination of images and sound is clearly key to immersiveness, and for that, credit is due to the creative talents of the score's composer, David Drury. However, we have to admit that using these highly advanced tools under shooting conditions put constraints on the director. It's not easy to handle such a sensitive microphone in the forest while it's raining! In the end, taking our technological solutions out of the lab and putting them in the hands of creators is a very good thing.

Optimal conditions: dark and close to the screen

Fred Pieau

What was the audience treated to that day?

At the IRT forum, REFUGE was screened on an Ultra High-Definition monitor with audio provided through a headset to enjoy the binaural sound.

And how did they react?

The audience, in a darkened room, were astounded by the feeling of being in the middle of the action. While the realism and texture of the images shot at 120fps had the intended effect, the audio work was what really wowed them: The score had been recorded by a special microphone made up of 32 capsules for a 3D sonic experience.

HOA (High Order Ambisonics) microphone recording 3D sound

Where can REFUGE be experienced now?

The director uploaded a version to the web on November 12. This way you can enjoy the story and feel of REFUGE and experience the main features of spatialized audio (you'll need headphones). However, the high-resolution version shown back in autumn, which gives the full effect of our immersion work, requires an UHD screen. This is only the beginning, because we're already working on more technically advanced versions. For instance, we're considering adapting REFUGE to be screened on next-generation monitors that aren't yet on the market (which support 120 fps). As for sound, the next version is meant to be played through dozens of speakers. More news to come in 2015...