May 25, 2016
Why you should be thinking about 360 video and Virtual Reality
Award Winning Directors Amanda Bluglass and David Betteridge talk to OCP about all things Virtual Reality
-Tell me first a bit about your own personal experience with 360 video and VR
Amanda: My own personal experience with VR was four years ago when I made a film for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, screened in a 6 meter high, 360-degree tent. I wondered what it might be like to feel you were on the bottom of swimming pool with Tom Daley diving towards you from a 10-meter board at forty miles an hour. That piece became the award winning ‘Beneath 360’: https://youtu.be/m8pSL1osacU
David: I have been directing and shooting brand films for many years and in the last 12 months I have shot 360 video for brands such as Virgin, Heineken, Musto. The London College of Fashion.
Shooting 360, whatever anyone tells you, is a pain in the ass. There are numerous technical hurdles which of course can be mastered and the crew usually end up having to hide during takes and a raft of other production issues. But once you get the hang of it and most importantly understand both the limitations and the advantages, it is a fascinating medium that can create immersive stories that engage audiences in a way that traditional film cannot.
Why are you so excited by VR?
A: It’s tremendously exciting to me that in a few short years an entirely new immersive technology has evolved, unleashing revolutionary potential for digital video viewers. Anyone who has tried Virtual Reality viewers will know that it affects the senses in a way a rectangular screen cannot, connecting us to what we see and hear on a deep emotional level. Our brains are tricked into feeling and sensing what is immediate and real.
And now that YouTube’s new on-screen widget allows you to toggle inside ‘virtual’ worlds, it seems clear that soon all digital video content will be navigable, either through toggling or via head movements. The potential is hard to underestimate.
D: 360 video has been around for few years and I dabbled with it but never really saw the application for storytelling until I was introduced to Google Cardboard by a producer at Google.
The first film I watched was CGI and it was a breakthrough experience and clearly the beginning of a new medium. However it was the second film Clouds Over Sidra, a documentary set in a refugee camp in Syria documenting the experience of a teenage girls’ life in the camp that made me realise this was something that I have to get involved in.
I was no longer watching the film, I was experiencing the story. I wasn’t looking though a window into another world, I was in it. I remember taking the headset off my face and realising that the world would never be the same. This is an experience that has been echoed by many other people who have jumped into this new medium
–Lots of brands and companies are experimenting with VR but which ones are doing it right? And why?
A: VR is being used already in almost every walk of life. There are military, healthcare, education, entertainment, tourism, heritage and many more applications. But for me, the outstanding pieces are where technology and creativity combine in the hands of filmmakers who can imagine its capacity to profoundly change ideas.
A stand out for me is the Animal Rights campaign video: https://youtu.be/oLNijMgVK1U
In this VR film, the viewer experiences life as a factory farmed pig. Just 20 seconds of watching this film changed my buying habits permanently – a light bulb moment.
D: 360 video and VR is currently a hot topic for brands. Predictably for a new medium some of the early experiments, looking back on it, were a bit ropey but as brands, agencies and filmmakers begin to get their heads around the new medium some interesting content is being made.
Some drama based stories have been made but I can’t help thinking they just feel like amateur dramatics. The UN and the NY Times have created some very compelling 360 films. GoPro of course are making some great content. Although quite a few brands have made some compelling single 360 films these are the brands who are constantly creating interesting 360 programming.
A: Another great example of the power of VR was when The New York Times combined forces with director Chris Milk to create the Sundance award-winning piece, Waves of Grace, tracing the story of an Ebola survivor in Liberia. VR makes the story immediate, intimate and affecting. Instead of ‘other’, over there, and not ‘part of my experience’, it becomes felt, lived and part of viewer’s mental landscape.
-Finally what are the creative possibilities of VR from a brand/commercial perspective?
A: Marketers, branders, campaigners and advertisers should be thinking about this as a game changer. We are on the cusp of a massive disruptive force in communicating ideas, products and experiences. Within a very short time Virtual Reality will be part of our mediated existence in a way brand/commercial applications have only just started exploring. The technology will soon become widespread, but there is an immediate appetite for revolutionary, viral content. We are going to have to learn new ways to tell stories.
Virtual Reality has been called an ‘empathy machine’ where you can ‘choose your adventure’. But this is more than a fun technological revolution; it is truly about to spawn a new wave of consciousness. It has the power of a vivid dream, and our brains can’t really tell the difference.
D: There is a tendency with brands and agencies to concentrate 360 video on experiences – in a formula one car, a jet fighter etc. This is fine to introduce people to VR but it has a pretty limited appeal beyond that. 360 Video and VR is being called The Empathy Machine and I think this is where it becomes interesting – immersing the viewer in other people’s stories, taking them to places that they haven’t been, putting them in situations that they could never be in. This is a new medium not just a new filmmaking technique and it needs to be treated as such.
My advice would be to engage directors early and use directors who have 360 experience – there have been quite a few high profile flops using high end directors who do not translate to 360 as they don’t understand the medium.
If you would like to talk more about incorporating VR and 360 video into your video strategy email us at firstname.lastname@example.org