Are any of the objects on the table, real?

Ryff’s Placer is a video platform that allows for the real-time manipulation of video streams (live or pre-recorded). The company has come out of stealth mode and announced the first application of Placer : product placements. The paradigm shift could be as significant as when web advertising first became targeted.

As you know, Product Placements in Hollywood consists of featuring (placing) a sponsor’s product within the context of a film or TV show. It is a lucrative business, but one that is far from running optimally:

the deal must be negotiated in advance, and once the production is done, there’s no way to change the product placement. Also, deals tend to be local (per-country), and American product placement may not be monetizable in other continents.

Placer could turn that industry upside down by virtualizing the product placement and replacing real-world objects with virtual photo-realistic ones, rendered in real-time 3D. “Customize instead of replace” is one of the phrases Ryff likes to use, for a good reason.


The Placer technology has attracted key partners such as Endemol Shine, a high-profile content producer behind Black Mirror. Placer is said to be compatible with existing workflows and digital distribution or broadcast systems. If true, the potential is enormous.

With Placer, product placements can be tailored to any existing ad-targeting data, and there is no shortage of that. For example, your favorite show could feature a Coca-Cola bottle sitting on the counter because it’s your favorite, or perhaps because your streaming provider knows that you prefer Pepsi. The bottle can be replaced by a completely different product as well.


The possibilities are endless, just like it is with digital advertising today, except that the user experience is infinitely better than web ads ,if done right.

Millions of viewers can each see a slightly different variation of the stream, with virtual objects tailored to their consumer profiles. Perhaps YouTube influencer should take notice because sponsors might soon have a lot more options…

Placer can customize the bottle

White, or red wine – no problem

Or no alcoholic drinks at all

While I’ve only seen demos that customize objects, Ryff says that the technology can handle people and backgrounds as well. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) aspect is used to “identify and convert existing and new media elements in the video stream into intelligent objects,” according to the company.

How can this even work, you may ask. In the past 10 years, graphics technology has evolved tremendously. Graphics Processing Units (GPU) remain one of the areas where adding transistors to the tunes of several billion per chips yields excellent performance increase.

With all this graphics computing power, combined with the latest rendering and AI breakthroughs of the past 5 years, it is now possible to build such a platform.

This is not like the old “blue screen” technology where you can add/change a 2D layer in the scene. The scene is shot with all the relevant 3D and lighting information so that virtual objects can be inserted seamlessly later. It is possible to use light probes and other means to have very accurate lighting information data to be re-used later during real-time rendering.


Ryff hasn’t explained in detail how its technology works (it’s still patent-pending), and there were probably a lot of technical issues to overcome, but the fundamental principles seem sound, and the live test with the first partners should be enough to attract more. As always, the devil is in the details and the workflow.

Placer is a fascinating intersection between video games, movies, and advertising worlds. Cross-disciplinary companies are often successful because it is complicated to build an opposing team that can rise to the challenge. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a live product placement powered by Ryff soon.

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