THERE WAS A LOT OF PROTECTION – SANDBAGS, CHECKPOINTS AND AIRPORT SECURITY
To bring President Zelensky’s message to as many tech leaders as possible, Founders Forum partnered with Brilliant Minds, The Next Web and VivaTech to display the hologram via ARHT Media’s Capsule at these tech conferences. In addition, footage of the hologram at Founders Forum was livestreamed to Dublin Tech Summit, The AI Summit at London Tech Week and SuperReturn Berlin. “Ukraine has got a huge tech skill set,” says Williams. “It was quite a big industry there, before the war. So tech is an important route to getting Ukraine rebuilt. The idea was that, if Zelensky can speak to the community and get some investment into Ukraine’s industry, they can kick-start the rebuilding of the country quickly – as opposed to building a steelworks again, which takes years.”
Williams got the call four weeks before the event. Hoegh called with a very specific game plan – get a team together, find a way of capturing a hologram of Zelensky, beam it live to the event, then devise a means of distributing it universally afterwards. If they got it right, it would be the first time any world leader in wartime had made an address via hologram. FINDING A HOLOGRAM Work started in earnest as soon as the phone was put down. The tech challenges to overcome were twofold. Firstly, it required a thorough and convincing volumetric capture of Zelensky speaking. Then, a suitable holographic display technology was needed. It quickly became apparent that there was no technology available for effectively presenting the Star Wars -style hologram we’re so familiar with. The closest approximation is the 200-year-old ‘Pepper’s ghost’ trick, still employed in amusement parks and stage shows, but it requires carefully controlled conditions to work properly. Experts decided that the video was to be delivered at each venue by Capsule telepresence monitors from ARHT Media. The Capsule monitor actually produces a 2D image, set slightly back inside a frame and manipulated to produce a 3D effect – so not strictly a hologram. Inside the Capsule is a large, vertically orientated 4K touchscreen, which uses ARHT’s HoloPresence technology to display people at life size. The Capsule comes in versions optimised for live delivery and touch-screen interactive playback. “The appealing thing about the ARHT Media technology was that it allowed you to pretty much plug in and go,” notes Williams. Security was essential. The team communicated internally and with government organisations – the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian Embassy in London – solely through WhatsApp and Signal, never referring to Zelensky or any locations, and private security was hired.
“We called it ‘Project Tuesday’ and talked about ‘Roger’ instead of Zelensky,” recalls Williams. In finding the right volumetric capture solution, Williams contacted top-tier content provider Dimension Studio, with whom he had worked when capturing Sir David Attenborough’s performances. But Dimension’s high-end capture required an entire truck. Driving a lorry into the middle of downtown Kyiv and pulling up in front of the presidential offices is not the smartest move when working in a war zone. However, Dimension referred Talesmith to a new volumetric capture company that created a solution able to fit into three Pelican cases.
TEAM TASK The crew worked directly with the president for a quick turnaround
CAPTURING A PRESIDENT Ben Nunez, CEO of Evercoast,
started the company with the goal of turning high-end volumetric capture – currently found on Hollywood stages at great expense – into a compact service anybody could access.
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