Colum Alum Spotlight: Collin Bishop '07

As senior product manager at leading game engine CryEngine in Frankfurt Germany, Collin Bishop ’07 has the expert scoop on how virtual and augmented reality are changing the ways we work, learn, and play.

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When you play a video game, you probably don’t think about the game engine behind it all—the software framework that provides the setting and physics of a virtual world. Collin Bishop ’07 works as a senior product manager at CryEngine, one of the world’s leading game engines developed by German-based video game company Crytek (maker of the Far Cry games).

In his position, Bishop oversees all of CryEngine’s operations, including managing a staff of more than 100 people. Bishop Skyped in from Frankfurt, Germany to tell us about how virtual and augmented reality are changing the ways we work, learn, and play.

 

You studied Film at Columbia. How does your degree affect the work you do today?

It wasn’t just learning cinematography. I learned how to do pre-production, storyboarding, and I even took some producing and production design classes. I think that shows for me, in the jobs that I’ve had, that Columbia did provide me with an all-encompassing curriculum that made me succeed. [At CryEngine], everything is going back to cinematography that I learned at Columbia, because everything is physically accurate in simulations nowadays. 

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How does a game engine work?

A lot of things inside of a game engine reflect what exactly you see outside of it. So the biggest thing would be light—you always have the sun. When you open up CryEngine, you will have what we call terrain, which is basically a flat plane that you can walk around on. You also have an ocean, where you can swim around. And then you have a sun, which you can completely customize based on the longitudinal or latitudinal data. You can even take real-world storm maps and insert them into the game engine to be able to show, “Oh, this is what the sky would look like at 600 South Michigan.”

We also have physics. You can walk around, you can touch vegetation, you can push aside a branch. Basically, a game engine itself is a real-world simulator.

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Why do people use CryEngine?

CryEngine can be used across the board for education and training. Say some company wants to create a simulation on an oil rig. They want somebody to be able to see the actual scale of what it would be like to stand on the platform and complete a task.

The next thing would be film. You would be able to composite an entire animated film inside of the engine, which we have done. Animatics can be assembled for films before you shoot so you know all the shots work together.

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Where do you see Virtual Reality (VR) going?

I think VR is a little too isolated for the common person. You stick a headset on, it’s not really a social platform. With Augmented Reality (AR), people can interact together. AR can be projected in your own room. [AR also has] something called Spatial Mapping. People get really excited, because you can place an object on the table. What they don’t see behind the scenes is the hologram is actually surveying the area around you. It creates a measure of the table, so when you place that object on the table right in front of you [the system] knows.

When you start to have this mobile environment—being able to grab things and walk around freely—that’s when I start to become extremely impressed. Once you’re able to see your entire body becoming a physical element in the [virtual or augmented] world, that’s when you start to transcend reality.

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