THE BVE 2017 DEBATES THE TWO SIDES OF VIRTUAL REALITY

Between 28th of February and 3rd of March, London’s Excel centre held the BVE, UK’s leading broadcast, production, post, live and AV systems integration event. This year there was focus on Virtual Reality (VR), with several exhibitors offering VR experiences. There were also a range of seminars and keynote talks on this topic, two of which are the focus of this article.

THE BVE 2017 DEBATES THE TWO SIDES OF VIRTUAL REALITY

Tanya Laird – founder of Digital Jam – highlighted, during the Storytelling in 360° seminar, that there is a very real difference between VR and 360°. It is a point that bears repeating as the two phrases are often used in the same breath. 360° is a ‘sphere of content’, that allows you to visually move around and look at different things. VR, however, is an interactive experience, driven by a gaming engine thats allows you to influence the environment you’re in. It is an important distinction, as some people believe they have a VR experience when using 360° video. This 360° experience allows you to feel as though you’re in Yosemite Park with former President Obama. But you can’t, for example, pick things up or move of your own accord, outside of the 360° environment.

FUTURE TRENDS IN NEXT GENERATION BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY AND CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

There were two key view points made during separate talks on the topic of VR. Firstly, one panel – Future trends in next generation broadcast technology and consumer electronics –  broadly suggested that VR is a ‘flash in the pan’. It was suggested that it was a little like the buzz that first surrounded 3D TV’s when they first reached the market, only to (rapidly) fall away. It was felt that the litmus test is whether mothers, partners or family members are sat around wearing headsets as to whether it would become big. They did concede it would become big in certain industries (gaming, E sports), but that it has no real relevance to narrative and storytelling.The point of debate was that humans have a long history of having stories told to them. VR gives the headset wear an agency to control the experience, and therefore the story, whereas humans prefer to have the story told to them. It was also voiced that creating long form content in VR is cost prohibitive.

VIRTUAL REALITY IN BROADCASTING

Interestingly though, directly after this talk, there was one titled VR in broadcastinG where VR was talked about in more positive tones. This panel stated that while 3D TV’s were a bit of a bust, VR has far more applications and because of this, was likely to be a success. It is the presence that VR provides that sets it apart, with the panel talking about the immersive experiences it can provide. Content creation specifically for VR was highlighted as an urgent requirement, as it is only great content that will entice people to enter this area. And at the moment, with VR being so new, there is limited understanding of who actually watches, or will watch, the ‘cool stuff’ that is going to be created.Similar to the future trend panel talk, the panel of VR in broadcasting seminar roundly agreed that it will have a bigger impact in some areas than others, but they disagreed that VR wouldn’t work on linear narratives. This was largely felt because of the added dimension the immersive nature of VR would add to a story, allowing the headset wear to engage in different ways and take the story in different directions – rather like how certain computer games allow the player to make in game decisions which affect the overall game narrative.

SUMMARY

Whats clear after attending both seminars is that the whole VR medium is still in its infancy, and as such no-one fully understands it, or where it might develop. Jaunt – who are backed by Walt Disney, China Media Capital and Evolution Media – are cinematic virtual reality specialists, and have recently moved its European HQ to LondonThis is at least a clear indiction that many within the industry believe there is a consumer desire for VR.