David Perkins #004
Innovate or Hibernate
Welcome back to another episode of I Love Event Tech!
In the year of the pivot, David talks with us about how this year has allowed him and his team to focus on developing new tools to their customers, including Carbon for Unreal, a plug-in that allows lighting engineers to use their existing live production tools in virtual productions.
To learn more about David and his services, check-out the below!
Omnibot the state of the fun robot from Tomy. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is Joel Martin.
Joel Martin 0:18
Hey guys, welcome back. Thank you. Thank you. And it’s good to see everybody. We’re here in our virtual show for I love event tech. Thank you. And we have a great show for you guys tonight.
We have a great guest for you tonight.
Joel Martin 0:30
Okay, I just said that. We have a great guest for you guys tonight. And David Perkins, the CEO of imaginary labs, who has a revolutionary, great technology for virtual concerts and events. DJs musicians, everybody should take a look at this. It’s going to be amazing. And as you can hear it’s a little slow. He’s coming over here on this Justin the Omnibot straight out 1984
I got your bedroom, sir. Hope you enjoy it.
Joel Martin 0:55
Come back. I really I ordered coffee.
Be nice. I know your browser history.
Joel Martin 1:00
Terrific. But anyways, it’s gonna be a fantastic show. Can’t wait to see more. And, guys, welcome back. Let’s start the show.
And now, your event technology expert and host, Joel Martin.
Joel Martin 1:20
And we’re back. Hello, David. How you doing, buddy?
David Perkins 1:24
Pleasure to see you. How are you today?
Joel Martin 1:26
Good, good. Just want to touch base. And it’s great to have you on the show. Another event technology specialist. And thanks for joining us.
David Perkins 1:36
My pleasure. Thank you.
Joel Martin 1:38
How rude of me. I didn’t offer you a water. Hold on one sec.
David Perkins 1:40
Could you? Could you. Alright. Thanks.
Joel Martin 1:53
So a little industrial magic. The new age we live in. So, since COVID is a hot topic in the events industry. And we have that covered. I just wanted to maybe we start with that you are the CEO and Chief Technologist at imaginary lights, right?
David Perkins 2:13
Imaginary lights and imaginary labs. And it gets awfully confusing. It’s just you know, what shirt am I wearing today kind of thing. Um, so, you know, for with COVID. The services side of what we do, which is on the imaginary light side is it’s taken taken quite the beating. We’ve had absolutely no projects since March 2nd. We had some of our best work that we were really excited to do this year all cancel all at the same time. And, you know, it’s it’s just the reality, and what are you going to do about it? So we pivoted real hard. We had been doing some research in engines and real time rendering, starting in April of 2018, sorry 2019.
Joel Martin 3:06
started two years ago, and yeah, all the success you guys are having because you have something very relevant and cool. Now, I guess, on the last portion, right, the virtual,
David Perkins 3:15
yeah, we’ve got we’ve got we’ve got a new product that we’re we’re like this close to dropping. You know, we’ve been building a series of tools that we ourselves could use, we’ve been excited to play with Unreal Engine. And we’ve been using this in our workflows for a couple of years now. But we start to see this, this advent of virtual events come to life, a lot of cool productions coming out. You know, one of the first ones being the the Katy Perry virtual performance on it was the voice or I can’t remember which show it was exactly. But it was one of the very first mainstream virtual events. And this is the one thing keeping our industry afloat right now is you know, adapting to this and finding safe ways for people to work together without, you know, completely dampening creativity. And it’s actually opened up a whole new can of worms of what’s possible. I mean, it’s it’s really changing, changing the game of how people experience live events.
Joel Martin 4:18
Very cool. Sorry, my robot assistant here just brought me a coffee. Doesn’t mean doesn’t do many things, but at least he’s helping today. Anyways, I actually think you have an amazing solution. And for people unfamiliar with it, we have a short video I’d like to share is that okay? Can I bring down the screen?
David Perkins 4:37
Absolutely. Thank you.
Joel Martin 4:38
And then maybe we can explain what it is.
David Perkins 4:40
Absolutely. So, um, we have a couple of things here. This is a recent performance that we helped Xite Labs out of Los Angeles. They are one of these pioneers in this virtual event space and they wanted to create an event with the DJs Infected Mushroom and So they did this, this project with a huge amount of support from a number of companies from All Of It Now, and Light Switch, and Robay provided lighting fixtures, I mean, just a tremendous number of participants working on this to put this together, it’s like this, this big science experiment of sorts. And the work that we provide is, we help connect the Unreal Engine, to the the familiar tool sets that lighting designers are used to using. So the lighting consoles themselves, where they actually are moving sliders up and down and programming, you know, lighting cues, we interact with that in a pretty seamless way, as well as with the drawing programs where people design these things like vectorworks, and AutoCAD and cinema 4d, building a series of tools, workflows, and assets, to make it more approachable for people who have worked in the live events sphere to now enter the virtual event sphere and make that as seamless as possible. So that’s… We’ve built a software suites called carbon for unreal. And it’s a plugin that works in and unreal natively. And it has all the lighting fixtures, the video tiles, the special effects, and all the communication protocols to make all this work. And so we’re excited to get this in people’s hands. We’ve had a few people test it under the hood and behind the scenes. And in just a few days, we’re actually going to be launching this as a beta for people to try on their own productions. With a hopeful, full commercial release before the end of the year.
Joel Martin 6:39
Wow. That’s a lot stuff.
David Perkins 6:45
I mean. What else are we gonna do? Take a year off? Like what are we going to do.
Joel Martin 6:53
Show how it works, right? Like Like, there’s a little behind the scenes a little short?
David Perkins 6:56
Yeah, yeah. So so at the end of the video is actually my favorite part of the whole thing? Because what I find is, is the most challenging thing in describing what virtual production is, with there’s lots of different ways to do it. And there’s no right answer, because people are figuring this out in real time. Right now, there’s no right answer. So they show a little behind the scenes in this of what makes their process unique their formula work the way that it does. And I think it’s a great way to explain to people what is possible, because you tell people virtual production Well, okay, that could be anything from a zoom call, you know, like the show that we’re doing today, some some sort of a, you know, you and I are, are in two somewhat different places, and we’re working together, we’re talking and we’re…
Joel Martin 7:48
You dont want to give away the secrets, huh?
David Perkins 7:50
That is virtual, that is a virtual production of sorts, but then you can go all the way into a Hollywood style virtual event where it’s, it’s basically a visual effect trick where you put a person into a world and and how do we achieve that do that with with? Do we do that with a green screen? Or do we do that with an LED volume and they’re immersed in it that way, there’s so many different ways. But what these guys have done, they use the the LED volume technique where you have a performer inside an area with with screens at floor, a couple of walls, and sometimes a ceiling. And your camera is tracking the performer in real time. But as it’s tracking, it’s updating the position of the virtual camera in Unreal Engine, which then informs those video walls, what pixels they should receive. So it’s really tying the physicality and the virtual together in a really cool way.
Joel Martin 8:47
Now, this is amazing. I see. I think we kind of froze there, am I frozen. There’s lag, there’s lag in this office on the WiFi.
David Perkins 8:58
We want better internets, better internets.
Joel Martin 9:04
The problems of the modern modern office, we have to worry about, at least we’re COVID free… so far. I love it. Because I could be at home, I could be at a electronic music conference or concert, put on my goggles or put get my immersive experience and see a Virtual DJ set with cool lights that, you know that that you can’t do in real life without spending thousands and thousands of dollars. Right?
David Perkins 9:28
Absolutely. It’s heading there. It’s heading there. I mean, right now the hardware requirements for what we’re trying to do. They are quite expensive. You know, these are tools that are in the 10s of thousands of dollars to be able to process the amount of math that’s happening in real time. But you know, as with anything, that’s where it starts and then it becomes more and more approachable for for consumers at home. So I do think within three to four years, we will be able to render this kind of a quality in real time on somebodys goggles at home and they’d have complete freedom of movement, the ability to interact with one another. We are we are on the cusp of a renaissance of sorts with live events are It’s a whole new world.
Joel Martin 10:12
So, so basically in a year, almost almost two years, you’ve built this, right?
David Perkins 10:16
Yeah, about 18 months to get it to where we are now. I’ve been thinking about it for about 15. But…
Joel Martin 10:24
We didn’t even talk about your background. You have a background, AV live production. You started in Orlando, you went to LA…
David Perkins 10:31
Yea, I started in Orlando I was I was, I mean, I started in high school, I would skip I would skip high school to go work in the theater at my school and we hang lights. And at some point, I actually started to get paid to hang lights for like dance recitals at the school, while skipping it, it was it was quite quite hilarious. But I love doing it right away. But I also really enjoyed like real time graphics. And you know, watch the matrix and John Gaeters work for visual effects on the matrix just blew my mind. And I knew that I wanted to head in that direction, too. So I was heading in these two different directions, at least I thought they were two different directions. And I started to use Maya to make renderings of concert stages and stuff like that. So I was starting to pull the visual effect world into my passion with lighting and whatnot. And so these things kind of just just kept reconverging at a point, waiting for the technology to catch up. I ended up going to Los Angeles for a little bit in 2010. Because the economy totally tanked in Orlando, I was able to go to work for touring design firm that handled some of the biggest productions in the world. And then I went to work for VER, one of the largest vendors of lighting and video equipment. And I started their simulation program there. And so that’s when real time really became a feasible thing for me being able to show people what their shows were going to look like, in an interactive way. And that just became the first ingredients for what we’re doing now with virtual events, it really it just it just just totally gone in that direction.
Joel Martin 12:09
It sounds like your story led to this, which is really cool. And I work. I’m on the board of the International technology rental Association, which is the icra plus staging and Eb production companies and allow the owners, which they’ve had an incredibly difficult time, you know, cutting staff, trying to survive, but they still have all this staging, and lighting and video recording equipment, but we need something they can’t not everybody can just do a green screen and a production, they don’t know how to do it, they need something more. And I think this is that, the more that takes us to the next level, right, you’re taking the red pill, and
David Perkins 12:43
Yeah, I think you know, we all have to come to terms with the fact that this virus is not gone, it’s still here, and we’re gonna have to find a way through this. And, and my hope with a tool, like what we’ve built is, you know, we can get people who are your traditional lighting programmers and operators, and, you know, people who build led walls, that we might be able to help them transition and equip themselves kind of upskill you know, and and learn some of these new tools, but I can, I can help them do it in a familiar way by building a workflow that lets them take drawings that they’ve worked on before in vectorworks or something and then immediately transition it right into unreal, a smooth pipeline. So so it’s less scary, you know? No, unreal is it’s a it’s a thing that could do anything. I mean, you could do crowds, you do people you can do
Joel Martin 13:38
David Perkins 13:39
You can build whatever you want. And so, a lot of people are looking at this and like, well, well, where do I start? Like, how do I like what, which tutorial do I look at first, you know, and, and so we just want to say okay, with with our plugin, all the knowledge that you brought to bear and have learned to do your own visualizations, your own renderings that you already know how to do. We’re gonna we’re gonna teach you how to do those same things using unreal and be able to turn on a screen and do a performance. All completely socially distant and safe.
Joel Martin 14:13
So David, we’re almost on time for the show. And for our podcast listeners, I guess what it really comes down to how do we reach you with the website is
David Perkins 14:23
So the best the best way to reach us right now, we’ve kind of been under a rock for a little while, partially as a survival technique, but also like this virus has has presented a unique opportunity for us where unfortunately, yes, we don’t have shows, but we can focus on this. And so we’ve been focusing on this hard. The best way to context right now is actually on Facebook. We have a group called Carbon for Unreal, it’s it’s the landing page for the beta that we’ll be launching shortly. You can also go to carbonforunreal.com and you can sign up for the beta there. If you If you’re a…
Joel Martin 15:00
This is a Saas model.
David Perkins 15:01
It’s a software as a service model. So we’re letting people try the beta out for free for 30 days after that, the standard license is 100 bucks a month. And we think that folks will really enjoy that it’s a little bit more think it’s a 129 if you pay month to month but if you pay for a year in advance that’s basically like 100 bucks a month. So we want to make it really approachable for people their you know, their first month they can just try it out see if they like it if they don’t like it, you know, no harm no foul. See, I think but I really hope that it can help get some people back to work because I have talked to so many of my brothers and sisters in this industry and they’re all hurting the you know, the there’s no bills anymore that have passed for aid. It’s it’s time that we we don’t need to learn new skills like to become you know, construction workers where there’s opportunity here, I promise. There’s opportunity here. It just might require a little bit of upskill.
Joel Martin 16:01
So they want to take the red pill and they want to stay in Wonderland. Go with imaginary labs and
David Perkins 16:06
innovate or hibernate, innovate or hibernate
Joel Martin 16:09
Got it. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
David Perkins 16:12
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Joel Martin 16:14
No, no worries, man. Have a great evening.
David Perkins 16:16
You as well. Take care. Thanks for the water.