Tech Trends catches up with the creative minds making the immersive storytelling experiences of the future
Since Technicolor opened the Technicolor Experience Centre (TEC) in Culver City, California a year ago, their subsidiary companies – including The Mill, MPC, and Mr. X – have worked on dozens of high profile Virtual and Augmented Reality projects that VR fans around the world will be familiar with, such as Nike’s Turkey 360 (The Mill), 20th Century Fox’s The Martian(MPC), Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad (MPC), MGM-Paramount’s Ben-Hur (Mr. X) and the fantastic Alien: Covenant In Utero, try it out below in 360. The creators enlisted the award-winning artists and creative technologists at Technicolor’s VFX studio MPC and the TEC, which provided the motion capture for the project. Collaborating with Twentieth Century Fox, FoxNext VR Studio, RSA VR, and Mach1 plus technology partners AMD RADEON and DELL, the team created what may be a first: a frightening immersive journey designed to scare viewers into their seats before the movie even opened!It's a year since Technicolor opened its Experience Centre for immersive technologies Click To Tweet
“The Technicolor Experience Center creates a vibrant ecosystem that enables our teams, partners and customers to advance the state-of-the-art in this new form of storytelling,” Tim Sarnoff, Technicolor Deputy CEO and President of Production Services told us.
TEC‘s ambitions are much bigger than promotional work for brands or the film industry, however. The center was tasked with developing high-concept content, platforms and technology for immersive media such as Virtual and Augmented Reality. To meet those goals, Technicolor’s Research and Innovation labs are developing a range of technologies, including formats and tools that are being applied to enhance the creation and distribution of immersive content which are set to drive the future direction of the industry.The Technicolor Experience Center aims to advance the state-of-the-art in this new medium Click To Tweet We particularly enjoyed the creepy IT experience on Littlstar Click To Tweet
Tech Trends spoke to Tony Mugavero, the CEO of the TEC’s official distribution partner Littlstar to find out a bit more about their partnership with Technicolor and the challenges of distributing VR to a broader audience. You can check out Littlstar’s apps which are available for a variety of VR platforms such as Playstation VR, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Gear VR offering content across across Music, Film, Sports, News, Gaming and more. We particularly enjoyed the IT: Float VR experience, “We all float down here Georgie,” is all I’m going to say…. I started by asking Tony about the much anticipated mass consumer adoption of VR, and the role mobile has to play in that equation.
We absolutely are on the brink of mass adoption in VR and AR. In order to push that further, the new computing paradigms need to work across all industries and not just entertainment. When people are using these technologies at home and work, and for entertainment as well as productivity, the shift will be complete. The transition is happening now, and the change is rapid (and exciting!).
Mass adoption is happening now, and the change is rapid Click To Tweet
Technicolor is helping creators monetise by getting their content out to the masses Click To Tweet
People have enjoyed content on Littlstar tens of millions of times. We have close to 1000 hours of content across thousands of titles, and some of our VR users are having sessions up to 45 minutes long. Our numbers are growing, and we’re seeing hardware sales grow as well as the introduction of big AR investment by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
Content is being produced at a much higher rate now as well at the big studios, networks, publisher, and labels, and many of these groups have internal teams with separate P&L’s to run immersive initiatives. There is a ton of development that is happening and under the hood we see no signs of cooling. The opposite, in fact.
Marcie Jastrow, Technicolor’s Senior VP of Immersive Media and Head of the Technicolor Experience Center adds that mobile devices are also going to be hugely important in driving this mass adoption.
“Mobile devices are going to be hugely important because what you create for mobile is not always going to translate on to an Oculus, or on to a Vive,” Jastrow explains. “You need to start like we do today with a master, and that is where the sweet spot for Technicolor will be: helping creators monetise by getting their content out to the masses via every headset, with the best image quality possible.”
I then asked Tony about what they brought to the table in the context of this TEC partnership:
We need to have the highest quality output for everyone involved Click To Tweet
Littlstar sits at the intersection of consumers, creators, and hardware companies. We need to have the highest quality output for everyone involved, and Technicolor couldn’t be a better partner to learn, collaborate, and grow the space with. With our platform, Littlstar sees nearly all aspects of what works and what doesn’t in terms of content. We’re able to cross reference all creators and see how consumers engage with the content as well. We also run up against hardware limitations while pushing the boundaries of distribution. We are able to provide a strong cross section of information, and working with Technicolor on solving these challenges means accelerated adoption and development all around.
So what will we see in the next ten years and what hurdles lie ahead for these new mediums?
Devices need to get more powerful to handle larger amounts of data and processing Click To Tweet
VR and AR will co-exist and be used successfully for different reasons. We need continued content development, business use cases, and hardware investment. Devices need to get smaller and more powerful to handle the amount of data and processing required to run immersive initiatives. We need improved network infrastructure to stream 8k or 16k content and better compression for things like volumetric capture. TVs and computer monitors will continue to be replaced, and we’ll see smartphones taking a hit as wearables get better.
Picking up on Tony’s comment that Littlstar is seeing users enjoy VR sessions of around 45 minutes I asked about the possible uptake for longer-format scripted narrative experiences.
Yes, this is already happening. Groups like Felix & Paul just released a 40 minute experience, and we’re regularly seeing content length increase. Dancing with the Stars and Conan O’Brien just released 1 hour long pieces of content.
Technicolor are also aware of the potential for longer format immersive experiences but Jastrow explained some of the challenges involved.
We can put processes in place that will help move immersive experiences along Click To Tweet
“Depending upon what it is that you are trying to accomplish, the workflows will be completely different. You can think the experience you’ve written on the page is going to translate beautifully into an interactive experience, but when you start working, you might find out that the technology is just not there yet,” she says. “I think the biggest challenge is going to be learning who the new storytellers will be,” she says. “What is often written out for creative is not something that can translate into immersive experiences. If it is a passive, narrative experience where there is no interactivity, content can be created in one way. Where there is interactivity, or where you may be tethered to a headset with controllers and interacting; that needs to be created another way.”
But Technicolor are committed to continued investment in evolving the processes and developing the workflows needed to advance those possibilities.
“Narrative VR is probably going to play out like post production, but things like images and camera maturity, and techniques like stitching all need to evolve in order for images to be better and workflows to be faster. In the passive, narrative type of VR, we think we can get there pretty quickly by putting processes, standards, workflows and storytelling in place that will help move those immersive experiences along.”
The future looks exciting indeed for storytellers looking to engage their audiences with immersive technologies and the HP Mars Home Planet project is a great example of how Technicolor and partners are innovating and promoting VR content creation, more from Tech Trends on this soon!
Technicolor are committed to continued investment in immersive technologies Click To Tweet
HP Inc, NVIDIA, Technicolor, Autodesk, Fusion, Launch Forth, Unreal Engine and VIVE have launched HP Mars Home Planet—a global project using virtual reality to simulate what a human population of one million could look like on Mars. The unique exploration project – uniting engineers, architects, designers, artists, and students from around the globe – is a perfect example of the creative and technological collaborative opportunities presented by immersive media. There are currently 25K people involved in the project’s community. The Technicolor Experience Center is managing the community of collaborators and providing guidance and expertise in the development of the final virtual reality experience.
Tech Trends Virtual Reality Consultancy Services offer support for companies looking to get a foothold in the growing Mixed Reality spectrum and enhance their brand strategy with these exciting new technologies.