A New Camera … a New Style of Storytelling

Matterport Dollhouse View of TV Studio
"Dollhouse" view of Cal Poly's remodeled
TV studio taken with the Matterport Pro 3D Camera




By Will Peischel

A black box on a tripod - it doesn’t look like much – more like the instrument of a land surveyor. However, the Matterport Pro 3D Camera could revolutionize multimedia storytelling. As of April, Cal Poly’s Journalism Department is one of only a half dozen universities in the nation to have one.

The camera, when instructed, rotates 360 degrees, effectively taking a high-definition scan of the space around it. After the device is placed in several points throughout a space, it stitches together the scans to create a three dimensional rendering. Cal Poly Journalism professor Brady Teufel called it essentially "Google Street View" for interior environments.

“The Matterport camera takes hundreds of high-resolution photos in conjunction with lidar, a combination of light and radar,” he said. “It combines those technologies and maps a space in high resolution and allows the viewer to move through that space, almost like you’re seeing it with your naked eye.”

Teufel discovered the technology at a UC Berkeley journalism workshop that focused on virtual reality storytelling. During the workshop, UC Berkeley graduate students demonstrated a Matterport camera.

“Everyone at the workshop was pretty well versed at VR, but this elicited audible gasps from the audience,” Teufel said. “The woman who ran the conference, a UC Berkeley faculty member, saw that I was impressed and said, ‘All I did was ask if [the Matterport] would loan us one. You should do that. I’ll give you the info, just ask them.’”

After a few weeks and some email correspondence between Teufel and Matterport, the camera arrived at the Graphic Arts Building, ready for use. Now, Cal Poly journalism students will be able to harness the cutting-edge technology, in whatever ways they can imagine, to tell stories. "The sky’s the limit,” Teufel said. “It’s all about seeing what we can do with it.”

Outside of journalism, Cal Poly’s art and design faculty will use the camera in conjunction with Maya, a program used for computer animation and modeling. “They’re interested in mapping actual environments and adding VR characters to Matterport,” said Teufel.

Journalism students are already formulating story ideas to tell with the camera, like mapping Poly Canyon. The camera’s first task was to map the new high-definition television studio that debuted on April 3. Click here to view a 3D map of Swanson Studio taken with the Matterport Pro 3D Camera.

In a world where new technologies increasingly influence storytelling techniques, devices like Matterport give Cal Poly journalism students a unique edge. “We have to break through the noise and compete with all the bells and whistles that exist out there,” Teufel said. “The ability to immerse an audience member in an environment to this degree is pretty unrivaled.”

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