The old movie-going charm of Picturehouse Central in Piccadilly provided a fitting contrast to the new cutting edge technology under discussion at last week’s Virtual Reality (VR) and Augemented Reality (AR) Summit.
The line up of speakers included Sky, BBC, Sony, Framestore and Vice, who shared their perspectives of where the industry is now - and where it could go in the future.
Over the past two to three years VR and Augmented Reality (AR) have been major buzzwords in video production with some industry leaders achieving impressive results. A great example is beverage brand Corona who enticed people to go outdoors and live life to the fullest with its VR campaign. By setting up a fake vending machine in the heart of Mexico City, they were able to lead people through a secret passage where they would then be given VR headsets and sent on a journey through the jungle to the beach.
Second up is the AR promo for the new season of Stranger Things. Shazam, Snapchat and Netflix teamed up to create an interactive AR experience on iPhone where users can ‘walk’ through a portal into the show’s parallel universe – ‘the upside down’. From here users can explore the room in 360 degrees – a great way of building up hype surrounding the new release.
Embracing the new technology holistically is UK’s largest car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. Richard Agnew, director of Product PR, says on a brand level the company is looking at how it can deepen emotional engagement with audiences and drive profits. He revealed how VR is central to the entire production chain at Land Rover – everything from prototypes, through assembly lines to high profile launches.
However, as with any nascent technology, there are still plenty of challenges to overcome. One of the main issues with VR at the moment is around distribution – how do you get good quality, high resolution content to audiences; how many people regularly use or even have headsets? At the moment, content producers don’t know enough about VR users and how they behave, so it’s difficult to know if they’re getting it right.
Although it’s been around for a while now, we’re all still figuring out the VR content landscape. For example, because the experience is so immersive and even overwhelming, content has to be constantly tested during production to make sure it’s not too much for the user - producers routinely end up reducing the gore in fight scenes. And in terms of scriptwriting you need to guide the user through your story using sound and lighting cues to help keep people on track and moving ahead with the plot.
A stand out is the eye popping developments around volumetric capture - which use cameras positioned at every conceivable angle to grab shots, giving the viewer the impression that they are actually in the same room as the subject. Sky is one broadcaster experimenting with the new technology with its Anthony Joshua film.
So the jury’s still out on how much VR/AR will take off, but one thing’s for certain, we’ll be tracking its usage over the coming year.