I don’t think there’s a day that goes by anymore that I don’t hear the words “Virtual Reality”. Perhaps that’s because of my google alert that sends me the latest trends in VR every day at 10:26am but also because “they” were right…this is the year of VR…or AR…or AI….or 360 video, whatever you want to talk about.
I must admit, I was (and in some ways still am) a sluggish adopter of the new immersive medium. I work at a creative studio that has a strong live-action production team and an even stronger 3D animation department so over the past 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to experience all sorts of Virtual Reality. One of my creative director came back from a trip last fall, raving about this booth he’d been too where he was, virtually, sitting in a helicopter, flying over the Fijordlands of New Zealand watching wild horses run across the Maori landscape. For a while I didn’t give it the time of day. I’m young but a film purest in a lot of ways– I still have my lab roll from the 16mm film I shot in film school. Finally, more out of necessity than desire, I started following VR and 360 content and slowly, I began to see a glimmer of opportunity.
6 months later, I’ve recently returned from a month long trip that took me literally around the world (4 Airlines, 8 Flights & 56,000 miles). We shot a campaign for a hotel on 360 cameras and are currently putting it together for a fall release. It was on this trip, after shooting 360 footage in the 100 degree weather in the forests of Malaysia that my perspective on 360 content shifted.
One qualification before I continue— There are many different kinds of VR content– Animation, games, video, interactive, etc. These posts are about 360 video— you know the ones on Facebook where you can move your phone like a magic window?
What finally gave for me to start enjoying 360 video was my intent on trying to fit it into the typical content marketing molds. After banging my head against the VR wall for weeks, trying to fit a square into a circle, I finally realized two things that opened a new [revolving] door (360 joke…haha).
Firstly, I had to give up control. If you think about it…directors are control freaks. There’s a story they want to tell, whether it’s a movie, documentary, commercial, etc., and they’re job is to tell their version of the story. As a viewer, you’re watching what the director wants you to watch. These shots, at these angles, in this order were painstakingly crafted together. Have you ever just ached to turn the camera around and see something else in the scene? "Oh man, what's behind that door?!" Sorry, the director doesn't want you to know!
In Jaws, you don’t see the shark for a long time, but that’s what makes it a great film…the anticipation. Now think, what if Jaws was shot in 360 and you could turn around and see the shark coming when you start to hear the baaaaaa-dums….baaaaaa-dum. It's probably not as scary any more, the director has lost control. All this to say, the way we tell a story in 360 is different. A 360 director’s job is more of an ambassador— crafting and environment and welcoming the viewer into a story and asking them to explore. Which brings me to my second point.
Isn’t it true that when you discover something amazing by yourself, it’s nearly impossible not to want to share it with someone? I have the hardest time watching movie’s that someone recommends I watch. “It’s amazing, you’re going to love it”. Instantly, I have very little desire to watch that movie. But, when I’m clicking through Netflix and stumble upon a new show on my own, I’m more deeply connected with the it. It's like, "Look what u discovered!"
I think that’s what VR and 360 offer…the opportunity for discover and as a result, deeper, richer, truer fans. You're no longer confined to a 16x9 window when you watch a commercial. You can turn around, look under the table…maybe you’ll find something unexpected that makes that story more personal and relatable for you. We're all so different and what we all want to see when we watch good content isn't the same across the board. 360 video is vastly more personal medium. It allows for a level of exploration and discover that no other form of entrainment has offered before! And like I mentioned, if you discover something by yourself, you're infinitely more likely to go tell someone else about that.
So that’s posts number One. My new mindset behind 360 video and VR. It’s such a new medium, I’m sure in the next year, I’ll have more and possibly stronger arguments for this new platform– it’s just going to get better. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post more on my experience with 360 video– shooting with it, editing with it and some of the new opportunities we have as content creators. Bottom line, I’m a VR fan– it has it’s weaknesses and there are something VR can never replace but it also has amazing benefits for the modern consumer that we cannot and should not ignore.