Flipside Studio Promises An Easy Way To Create Animated VR Shows

If you’ve ever wanted to make an animated show, but were deterred by the difficulty of animating 3D characters, you may want to look at Campfire Union's Flipside Studio, which makes creating animations for a show as easy as acting them out. With Flipside Studio, all you need is a VR headset and a little bit of creativity to make a cartoon.

Consumer-grade virtual reality headsets have been around for nearly two years now, and arguably, the buzz around VR is beginning to wane in favor of the upcoming augmented reality tech that’s creeping around the corner. However, we’re still scratching the surface of what VR can offer, and Campfire Union believes it has something special to offer with Flipside Studio.

For the last two years, the VR industry has focused primarily on games, but we’ve seen several examples of productivity use cases. Oculus Medium allows you to sculpt 3D objects in VR like you would sculpt a real object. Google’s Blocks enables you to create 3D objects in seconds. And both Unreal Engine and Unity 3D offer scene editors that enable you to build 3D environments around you. All these examples enable creators to do what they do best, in less time, and with less complexity. Campfire Union’s Flipside Studio offers the same sort of advantages for creating 3D animations. The developer said that with Flipside, you could create one minute of animated content in about an hour, compared to one minute per week with traditional animation methods.

Campfire Union is giving away Flipside Studio for free, but don’t let the price convince you that Flipside isn’t serious software. The developer pitched Flipside to Hollywood last year, and it said that at least one major network is interested in the platform, although it can’t divulge which one. Campfire Union is also working with a handful of YouTube creators, including Bob Jennings (aka Liam The Leprechaun), who said that Flipside saved him an incredible amount of production time for a recent project.

"Flipside helps me realize the kind of 3-D animation that would typically take days in a matter of minutes,” said Jennings. “I can come up with a concept in the morning and have a high quality animated YouTube video edited and published in a matter of hours. It's nothing short of revolutionary, and it's only just beginning."

Flipside Studio is a full-featured TV studio that offers everything that you would want for live action filming, but for virtual reality. The software includes useful features like a virtual teleprompter to display the script for your actors, as well as preview screens to present information like a news reporter. Flipside also offers up to eight virtual cameras, so you can film several angles at once and edit them in post production or flip through on the fly. It also offers OBS Studio integration, so you can broadcast your production live through Twitch, Facebook, or YouTube.

Flipside Studio includes several pre-built virtual sets so that you can get started right away, but the software also offers a set editor, so you can customize your set to fit the theme of your show. Flipside includes a handful of virtual characters to choose from, but you can import custom 3D models made with any character modeling application that can export in FBX format. You can also import .obj files to use as props for your set.  

Flipside Studio is compatible with Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive, but you get access to additional features if you have a Vive. Campfire Union said that Flipside Studio supports the Vive Trackers for additional mocap fidelity. The company uses Partel Lang’s Final IK SteamVR plugin to approximate leg and hip positions, but you can use HTC’s Vive Trackers to physically track your hip and foot positions for more accurate body animations.

Flipside Studio is available now through Valve’s Early Access program, but Campfire Union doesn’t consider today’s release as a launch. The company said the app is ready for use, but it’s not fully-feature yet. It plans to roll out an update next week that enables mixed reality recording so that you can use live people as actors in your production. The developer is also working to integrate Google Poly for importing props, and cross-platform multiplayer is just around the corner so that you can have multiple actors, but they won’t need to use the same VR platform. Ultimately, Campfire Union plans to enable live studio recording, where you can have an audience of headset owners watching your performance.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.