Last week I moderated a panel that was part of Digital Hollywood's impressive lineup of sessions on virtual reality and other forms of immersive entertainment. My four very interesting speakers helped the audience explore VR innovation in Canada: Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre, Eric W. Shamlin, Executive Producer from Secret Location, Roy Taylor, Corporate VP at chipmaker AMD, and Ian Tuason, producer, Dimension Gate.
The focus of the discussion was the complex of new aesthetic and production workflow considerations being developed in this early stage of VR content creation. Taylor urged creators entering the VR space to create "really great" work that will blow the audience away. If yours is the first VR experience a user has, your work define the medium for that user. For that reason, he and his company AMD are focusing on the higher-end experiences possible with the new generation of head-mounted displays such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, rather than the more rudimentary VR delivery system of Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear.
Serrano reviewed two VR projects at the CFC -- Mind, Body, Change, a VR extension of a transmedia production inspired by the films of David Cronenberg, and VR Sketches, a collection of short VR experiences by various artists who explore a specific aesthetic property of VR. Shamlin shared two recent VR experiences produced by Secret Location: a site-specific VR extension of the Fox series Sleepy Hollow, created for ComicCon, which was recently awarded an Emmy, the first VR project ever to do so; and Van Beethovan, a collaboration with the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra.
Tuason shared his experience as an independent VR filmmaker. He shares his work in the horror genre on YouTube's 360 channel, so that he can utilize fan feedback in the comments thread to shape his story in a medium for which there are few fixed rules. Did fans have the intended experience, or did they miss the action? Did the story get advanced, or was it unclear? YouTube as a real-time focus group for VR filmmaking is an idea that could only happen with today's digitally connected fans.
Take a look at the video, now available on the Digital Hollywood site, and while you're there, check out some of the other fascinating discussions of this emerging art form. Every day we gather new evidence that VR is finally, after two decades, about to reach a turning point. The New York Times has ordered one million Google VR devices for its subscribers. Most VR device manufacturers are ready to release their devices into the consumer market. Major content players are jumping into the VR fray -- from Fox, which has announced VR extensions for many of its hit movies to AFI Fest, which is devoting a day of its mainstream Hollywood film festival to the creative aspects of VR production and content.