How To Get To The Future Of VR

How To Get To The Future Of VR
Ryan Bell Director of Digital Strategy

Ryan Bell
Director of Digital Strategy

"Trust the people that make the music to take you someplace you haven't been before."~ Elvis Costello

VR will not work as a storytelling platform unless each component has the capacity to elevate the story individually. First and foremost, there must be adequate reason for the story to be told in this new immersive format. This is extremely important because of our responsibility to our audience. If we are putting a viewer in the most captive experience they’ve ever been subjected to, then we absolutely must make it worthy of being cut off from the outside world for the time that we’ve designated.

And then…we must remember that our viewers are not test subjects.

Flash and pizzazz, while fun, must have backbone. Take, for instance, Toy Story, a film whose story (thanks Joss Whedon) transcends the 1995 technologies that have so visibly staled over the decades. As animation, Toy Story is archaic, but the story is strong enough for viewers of all ages to forgive.

This “reality” that we’re creating isn’t going to feel "real" unless you can interact with it.

The most honest definition of VR must include a way to be involved in the world that one is in. Without that interaction, the world that has been created doesn't have a connection to the viewer. As a general rule, 360° video is NOT VR... as much as I would like it to be, it just isn’t. However, 360° video can be one of the most important building blocks in making “real” VR.  You’ll hear me refer to many things as “VR” but that is my forced cheat because all of these things are on a spectrum and I often don’t have time to differentiate.

And then…if it is crap, you must treat it as such.

I advise VR filmmakers to break boundaries and rules often. This tends to yield equal parts of magic and garbage.  As we test out what works and what doesn’t, we’ll often find that it is too early to make an idea work or just flat out doesn’t and won’t work.  In one instance we pocket the idea and wait or we build the tech to make it work.  In the other instance, we learn how are mistakes can help us right our direction.

That being said…

Know when you're too damn early.

An idea that I've pitched (and love) called "Leaky Castle" requires eye tracking to really have impact. A softer version of this experience would be so much less than the full experience that it doesn't hold value against the gaze-based original idea. No studio in their right mind would buy it now because there are so few headsets with the technology to run it.

I find quite a bit of solace and inspiration in the fact that I'm a year or so early on this project. It's comforting to be wrong in timeline and right in outlook

Work with what you have!

Yearning for new technology doesn’t mean that you’ve mastered old technology. If you really wanted to, I’m quite sure that you’d be able to innovate in silent film (I have faith in you).  It’s been pretty often that I’m working on a project and I have to go back to a less complex camera or that we figure out that the complexities that we were adding were unnecessary. If you have a cheap 360° camera, then use it and write a screenplay. If you have nothing, watch things on cardboard and write a damn screenplay. There are enough competitions out there to give you a chance to win!

Physics be damned!

I wish I were an animator. I wish I were an animator. I wish I were an animator…

As I watch the bigger wins in VR they tend to come from the animation side. We look at upstarts like Studio Disrupt and Baobab and see that they’re winning because they don’t have to adhere to the rules of gravity and physics in the way that we’re used to.

My opinion is that if we’re going to leave our world and go into a virtual world, then it should be wildly different. That is where the amazement comes in and that leads to love. Think about what has made you LOVE VR… and a good amount of the time it’s awesome animated stuff!

Understand value

As someone designated as "a creative" I…

1.     Have to answer to the realities of CMOs and studios.

2.     Hate being called "a creative"

That being said I have to find a core value that can sell the story, justify budget, prove that it will get views and, often the most difficult, market a 3 dimensional product on multiple 2 dimensional platforms.

Some IP’s (like Harry Potter or Terminator) can carry any garbage game, spinoff, toy or VR experience, but the responsibility is always to elevate. Nobody wants to be a leach. As a peripheral piece, are we creating something that drives traffic to the main event? As a brand activation, how are you able to justify how many views they’re going to get? Are you able to raise money, sell product or tickets or drive traffic to a website?

The most universal of truths in VR is that the time for emerging creators is now.  As I visit the big Hollywood studios and talk with major directors like Jon Favreau, we see that they are more than interested...they are doing.

It is high time to start working in the medium to gain understanding, experience and recognition prior to becoming a fart in the wind.

At the time of this writing there is no mass adopted scent program in VR so deduction would state that a virtual fart will dissipate even more rapidly.

Get your chops now before you get chopped.


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