Virtual Reality, (VR) involves a powerful approach to storytelling and sharing that can create immersive experiences for viewers. So, what’s new about VR in 2016?
- Mass distribution capabilities (Samsung’s Gear, HTC’s Vive, Oculus VR – acquired by Facebook)
- Inexpensive VR viewing tools such as Google Cardboard
- Better optics, better controls, better spatial audio
- A burgeoning ecosystem of hardware (cameras, game consoles, exercise equipment, etc.)
- Volume and quality of content being produced – driving adoption
Developing a Strategy
Thinking about VR as a marketing solution, beyond the “gee whiz” newness factor, ladders up to two approaches (note: if you are creating a digital game-like world, additional options exist). One is where you are trying to change perceptions about someone or something, driving real understanding of that particular situation for a viewer. The other is to provide a more tangible, palpable, feel-able sense of place in a location or environment. They can both be combined (and are in the former) to work together. The key is to understand your product or service as it relates to the experience of VR. If it can be accomplished in a linear format of traditional video, then VR probably isn’t the right format, nor the right investment for the projected rate of return.
Creating Story Lines
Story lines are absolutely critical in VR – yes, there important in any video format, but significantly more important in VR. Without an effective story line, the power of 360 degrees can become confusing and overwhelming to the viewer. Think of VR without a story line as you would a movie without a linear plot – the end coming in the middle and the middle being the start – incredibly confusing. With this in mind, let’s move on to what’s needed in order to make a story line effective in VR. Story lines must include these tenants:
- Leave your world and visit theirs
- Twist perceptions in an unanticipated direction
- Make something be at stake if you can, create struggle to participate
- Have the story do the work without relying on supers
Through each of these tenants the brand acts as an ancillary participant – a part of their life, a part of the total experience, yet not the focal point.
VR is going to be the “most social platform. It's the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want.” - Mark Zuckerberg.
Facilitating Empathy Creation
If you are looking for a way to create real emotional triggers and desired responses / outcomes, placing a viewer right in the middle of the action where they feel as though they’re truly a part of it – then VR is a powerful medium.
Creating the Experience: Staging, Blocking and Shooting
For those who haven’t experienced VR production, linear films are, by their very nature of cuts and camera angles, a non-linear filmmaking process. VR is more like staging a sequence of small plays. In these small plays natural or choreographed action can and does happen all around the camera. The multi-lens camera rig placement is critical because it places principal and secondary action in a proximity perspective for the viewer and offers guidance to the weighting and emphasis of the scene. If you’ve overseen linear video production, your first VR shoot will be a learning experience – one that forces you to change conventional wisdom.
The Post Production Process
There really is very little visual editing in VR sequences, only “in” and “out” points of the sequence. The only time visual editing is used is in fades between sequences for connection. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include time for post-production work. There is a need to stitch all of the footage together from each camera, which is both an art and a science. It’s also critical to determine how you want to reinforce key emotive events (e.g. a super of a thread from Snapchat with a teenager in their room). From a sound editing perspective, music is important as a driver in scenes, but not so much to affect or cue a mood, the visual experience and voice does plenty. Using 360 sound rigging is a worthwhile investment because it enhances placement and perspective/distance for what the viewer is seeing.
We’ve recently completed 5 VR shoots and the viewer feedback surveys have been absolutely “off the charts.” If you’re contemplating VR, ask yourself how the experience will impact the viewer and what your desired outcomes are. If they can be accomplished by other means, then it’s worth reviewing the approach in order to take advantage of all this medium has to offer.
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To contact the author
Rick Shaughnessy, Partner