Virtual reality (VR) is not a recent technology; it has been around since at least the 1980s. Since then it has mainly been limited to amusement parks and civil and military research. But the recent development of commercial ventures planning to sell relatively affordable (300-400 euro) VR sets by the end of 2015 has sparked interest from the advertising and entertainment industries.
“Every storyteller, from a writer to a video producer, wants immersion,” Jose Luis Navarro Salinas, CEO and co-founder of inMediaStudio in Spain, told the audience of a panel discussion dedicated to technology and storytelling at MIPTV in Cannes.
For content producers and brands, the opportunities are clear. “Now technologies can put you in the place of somebody else entirely,” Navarro explains.
But the challenges are equally clear according tor Frenchman Antoine Cayrol, who created and runs OKIO studios specialised in VR and 360° videos. With VR “immersion is everywhere,” he says, but it changes the way you write your story.
“The writing has to be very specific, it needs to be different stories on the same level,” to guide the story as some people may look elsewhere than where they are supposed to, despite pointers in the video. In addition, “it’s hard to try to produce a video without ever trying a VR mask,” Cayrol says, saying it could happen with a client in a hurry.
Navarro, whose company also focuses on VR concurs: the immersion changes the whole way one produces video.
“You have to take into account that everything that has been done in production before you is wrong.”
The scripting needs to be redone, rethought, for instance. And, with 360° videos, “how do you light a scene?” asks the Spaniard. The director also cannot be behind the camera, lest he is visible.
Issues can lay with the clients too, especially if they want to include VR at the end of a project, as an afterthought. Ideally, Cayrol and Navarro agree, the digital side of the project should be discussed and planned from the start.
“We can be a little flexible,” Cayrol concedes, but only “if you think of the VR set as a second screen.”
Eventually, for Navarro, “when the technology will be in the hands of the customers, there will be a demand for content.”
If you already have a VR headset, you can try out this video, by Cayrol’s OKIO studios.
If you don’t have a few hundreds dollars to experience the first generation of commercial VR sets, you can buy the Google Cardboard or other low-tech devices to creatively experience VR with your smartphone for a few euros.