A thought on the reality of Immersive Content*

Developing, delivering, and using a new technology like VR/AR isn’t easy; but boy oh boy, is it fun.

In a week in Amsterdam at IBC, those of us that are lucky enough to go will be seeing – and for that matter hearing — from people who are pressing the envelop to see how VR and AR almost feels. And lets not forget there will be a lot of naysayers too.

Those naysayers have forgotten that:
• Silent movies lasted from 1895 – 1936
• B&W TV started in 1928
• The first U.S. color transmission was in 1954 (Tournament of Roses) but B&W reigned for another dozen years

Not a lot of color TV sets sold back then.

Why? Lack of content. Production was high and there was a lack of viewing screens.

Sound familiar?

The M&E industry has a lot of challenges, issues and opportunities on its plate. But IBC is focused on figuring out how to advance new ideas in broadcasting, helping the industry be prepared to prosper in the next 5 to 50 years both from the business and technical side.

Then if that is not enough there’s SMPTEs’ (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) conference in October, a month later in Hollywood.

Very simply, the category players can deliver immersive experiences today through visionaries and early adopters interests. The new technologies – HW/SW – will continue to evolve and the early creators are shooting/producing content people want and look for, and then work to get it to them – distribution efficiency.

However, this will not happen overnight because just about everything needs to be changed. So, there is a bit of behavioral modification to take place in addition to codecs.

Today, we’re transitioning viewers from the flat screen where it is pretty easy to provide content for, deliver what the viewer is comfortable with, regardless of the size of the screen/TV, and they are also okay with someone dictating the content storyline too. With VR/AR it is a bit odd at the moment, having the experience more in almost real-time in first person, than a scripted story.

In fact, there is even one naysayer, an analyst, questioning how you monetize this new video approach; citing that presently, the audience is small, production costs are high, theatres are leery, there’s no “star power”/actor identification and maybe, just maybe, it’s a fad.

But is it?

The transition from B&W to color was important but it didn’t challenge the industry – nothing changed for shooter, producer, director, production, audio or viewer but … except that everything changed to color.

The challenge for VR today is that it is being compared to whatever is here to day via an immediate society that must achieve instant success, versus what it can be.

VR is just in its first consumer generation with the classic chicken and egg scenario; and it’s something that producers with enviable track records and independent filmmakers are investing in to change.

They – and early adopters – are just beginning to discover what works and what doesn’t.

It’s difficult to step out of the industry comfort zone where you have a proven set of steps to deliver a product the audience can judge based on the script, actors and production work.

The question really is to help the evolution so: Is this a product for a mass audience or select; a dedicated initial venue -sports or adventure? It is certainly not what the current business is comfortable with though.

Fortunately, an increasing number of filmmakers are willing to take chances to let people experience and help create a new art form that will find its first connection and bring a whole new world of interaction, ie. color to a black and white experience that helps through enjoyment and to participate in ways they never thought.

My hat is off to these new creators and explorers. We should all be so lucky to accept our fears and create a new way for society to engage.

* Blog entry motivated from a lunch with a friend (Daniel Kenyon) and a story from another (Andy Marken)