If you want to get students creating virtual reality content of their own, you’re going to need to get your hands on the right hardware. As well as the very chic headsets you’ll have seen demos of, you’re also going to need a workstation and a VR-ready graphics card. Here’s what we recommend.
HTC Vive is our favourite of the recent crop of headsets. It’s designed for ‘room scale’ VR, in which each participant interacts with objects, characters and environments in a limited space (so ideal if you’re converting a broom cupboard in your media department into a VR space).
Each player is equipped with a wireless sensor that boasts 24 sensors and SteamVR tracking technology, which combine to give realtime feedback on a player’s location within the room, enabling more realistic interactions and unobstructed movement. To counteract participants’ tendency to wander into walls while immersed in VR, the Vive has a built-in guidance system called Chaperone. If you double tap a menu button, or are about to hit a real-world obstacle, Chaperone drops an overlay of the real world onto your VR environment, so you can veer away from any walls, furnishings or people you don’t want to collide with.
Bear in mind, though, that having the headset alone is not enough – you need to opt for a kit that includes base stations, link boxes and face cushions to ensure that you’re ready to go. HTC are offering a Business Edition of the Vive that combines all of these, and adds in a commercial use licence should you want to put your Vive to work recouping its own cost.
Rich media work is always demanding on your hardware, and creating and powering virtual reality content is no exception.
If you’re already using Avid-approved HP workstations for video editing, animation, or VFX-related courses, the top end of these will be suitable for virtual reality work, too – we recommend an HP Z840, as these workstations are not only powerful in and of themselves, but allow plenty of room for expansion should you want to increase your capabilities in the future.
As well as the towers themselves, we offer accessories, warranties, storage and infrastructure solutions, so can help you update an existing media lab, install a new one, or add additional machines on their own network so that working with VR content doesn’t slow things down for anyone else.
One thing that you need to bear in mind, whether you’re buying new workstations or updating existing ones, is that you’re going to swap out your standard graphics card for a 3D-ready one.
A 3D-ready graphics card
NVIDIA/PNY have already got two cards ready for you: the 16GB P5000 and 24GB P6000, both of which should work with your HP workstations. These cards harness NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU technology, and offer enormous memory capacity so that you can work with ever-larger data sets and more complex visuals.
If you’d like a hand putting your 3D workstations together, you can get in touch with our team on the details below, or come along to our virtual reality event on 8th February to see how industry professionals are using VR in their new projects (you can register for that here).