oculThis is the fifth in a series of posts from leading VR and AR influencers in the run-up to MIPTV 2017. The posts are coordinated by VAST MEDIA, a Berlin-based media consultancy.
MIPBlog: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us what brought you into the VR/AR/immersive space?
James Milward: I’m the founder and President of Secret Location. We started our business 8 years ago as a Digital Agency and Production company.
Unlike other companies who specialized in one platform or digital technology, we’ve always been platform agnostic, focusing on creating new formats and accelerating existing stories over multiple digital channels – wherever they would strategically align with audiences.
We’ve been fans of the potential of VR and AR for a long time, but until about 3 years ago, there wasn’t anything hardware wise that could come close to the realization of a high fidelity, truly immersive experience. Then the Oculus DK1 was launched on Kickstarter and we ordered our kit.
Once we played around with it, and subsequent developer kits like the HTC Vive, we knew VR was finally at a pivotal point to being able to both deliver and engage a wide, broad audience around new storytelling formats and experiences that we believe can live conclusively with existing content experiences, and can also really disrupt in positive pays the lives of a massive amount of people. It’s really this unlimited potential that brought us fully into VR. Quite simply, we’ve been chasing immersion and the ability to connect with audiences on a deeper and more visceral level through each evolutionary technology we’ve had access to, which until now have all been screen based 2D computers, phones or screens in physical spaces. VR and AR offer the ability for true 6 degrees of interaction, viewing and ‘presence’ within a content experience.
> What are the biggest challenges VR producers and content creators are currently facing?
The challenges are myriad at this point, from the tools to capture and create, the fidelity of the technology hardware platforms and software to distribute on, and the storytelling and creative constructs that need to be defined and refined to create truly compelling and meaningful audience experiences.
There are more challenges than advantages to creation – however, that is the opportunity – to overcome these and to be fundamental to the ecosystem of products and projects that define what success and audience engagement looks like in this new medium.
> How easy or difficult is it currently to sell immersive content? Do VR/AR entertainment companies have dedicated buyers yet?
At this point, it’s very difficult to sell immersive content, both up front for licensing or equity investment and/or at the back end to consumers, either in a pay to play model or part of an SVOD bundle.
Most of the VR hardware platforms have dedicated buyers, and some of the existing SVOD players do too. However, they are typically stretched over games, content and experiences.
> Could you share some of the key learnings from your own VR projects?
All the same fundamental elements needed for linear content projects are needed in VR – Either 3rd financing, Talent or IP, and preferably all of the above – of course along with a great story / structure and team to execute. However, given it’s a new medium, a new lens on these elements is needed for success.
There is no silver bullet / slam dunk to putting projects forward, it’s about being active in the industry, close to all the players, having projects that can showcase your skills and ability while also thinking outside of the VR bubble to combine learning, experience and innovation towards what new format projects could look like.
> What are the three most impressive VR/AR/immersive productions you have seen recently and why?
- Mr. Robot (Marketing extension)
- Bullet Train (Game)
- Tilt Brush (Utility / application)
Each of these takes into account the key tenants of what makes consuming VR literally an amazing experience and creates a compelling format that leaves the audience/participant wanting more.
> Some may fear VR is the new 3D, i.e. that it will never catch on for widespread domestic use. Why do you think it’s here to stay?
It might not be here to stay, but it won’t fail for the same reasons that 3D TV’s did.
1. First and foremost, the price point is much more approachable
2. There is a larger capital investment and content sector being developed and incentivized.
3. The institutional players from Google, Facebook, Sony, HTC, Samsung, etc are all far to motivated, and further more there are just too many use cases each of these companies can accomplish with VR, from Education, Social Connection, Entertainment and Commerce – which broadens the ROI and monetization of content and products at a much larger level.
Find out more about MIPTV 2017’s unprecedented focus on VR & immersive content here.