Trendsetters:A Whole New World
Chad Eikhoff remembers well the Halloween weekend he spent working on a film being shot in an abandoned hospital in Jasper, Ga., from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. At one point during the grueling shoot (he doesn’t remember if it was late at night or early in the morning), Eikhoff looked down and saw his fingerprints swirling.
It was no otherworldly presence causing his hallucinations, just plain lack of sleep.
“At that moment, I decided I don’t want to be here anymore,” Eikhoff recalls.
That experience led him to create TRICK 3D, an immersive content studio in Atlanta specializing in the creation of virtual worlds through 3-D animation and virtual reality. He has also produced and directed several films, including the feature-length thriller The Other Side in 2006 and Dance of the Dead in 2008. In 2011, Eikhoff directed, co-wrote and co-produced the hit CBS 3-D-animated special, An Elf’s Story.
“Filmmaking drew me early because it combines lots of creative disciplines,” he says. “I was always curious about the different disciplines: creativity and technology; lighting and photography; and acting and design. All these pieces combine to tell a bigger story, which is what I love about filmmaking, and I love the effect it has. What you’re creating moves people.”
Virtual filmmaking allows Eikhoff to do all of those creative things he loves in a climate-controlled studio on a computer during banker’s hours.
“I didn’t love having to be on set at all kinds of hours on any given day,” he says. “That’s kind of what drew me into creating TRICK 3D.”
Founded in 2006, today TRICK 3D is the first and only production stage of its kind in the Southeast, drawing corporate brands and filmmakers alike to its Huff Road facilities, which include a mobile motion capture camera system and a proprietary virtual production camera system.
The mobile motion capture system allows for motion to be obtained on remote sets and no longer requires tethering to a stage. This mobility allows for easy insertion of CG characters (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings) into live footage, while TRICK 3D’s TRICK Cam is a proprietary camera tracking system that enables actors to be seen live inside virtual sets, vastly improving the virtual production pipeline from pre-visualization through post-production.
“The full virtual production stage allows directors to go into a virtual set to get their shots before they show up on set with all the actors, crew and equipment,” Eikhoff says. “Virtual reality allows you to play inside the set for a longer amount of time, giving more creative control – as well as saving time and money. It’s an emerging part of the business for sure.”
The company, which employs 20, also boasts a composite and green screen stage enabling virtual worlds and programming for a variety of clients, including Delta Air Lines, Aflac, AT&T, and entertainment giants CBS and Turner Broadcasting.
“Our first VR experience with Delta allowed people to virtually board an aircraft that didn’t exist yet,” Eikhoff says. “That plane has since been rolled out, and it’s a great example of how we’re helping our customers to take things that don’t exist yet and create them digitally.”
Eikhoff and TRICK 3D also did a commercial for Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network.
“They needed it to be set in London but couldn’t travel, so we virtually placed them in London,” he says.
In March, the company rolled out the first cloud-based real estate visualization tool, Floorplan Revolution. Without the need to purchase hardware or software, Floorplan Revolution users can virtually tour life-like 3-D homes on any device, including PCs, tablets, smartphones and VR headsets.
“Before Floorplan Revolution, you could show virtual things in a nice directed video or image, but now we can put people in that world,” Eikhoff says. “As you’re in it, you can highlight certain things; give a guided tour and let somebody walk through and see all the features you want to point out. You can still show a home or property with video, but VR really takes it to the next level so you can feel like you’re actually in that space.”
While there are other companies that do virtual tours, they’re customized and expensive, according to Eikhoff. Floorplan Revolution, however, can be scaled for every floor plan or neighborhood, not just one.
“We started as a company focused on the architecture visualization world, then we evolved into broadcast and commercial,” he says. “Now, we’re more of an innovation partner for enterprise, but we are inherently, at the heart, a creative technology company.”