VR Experts Look to Hollywood's Next Play6 Oct, 2015 By: Chris Tribbey
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — At a recent virtual reality (VR) event held by the Advanced Imaging Society (AIS) trade group, Ron Taylor, corporate VP of alliance for semiconductor company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was among those wondering whether or not VR has a future with Hollywood.
Taylor shared data showing that by 2019 there will be 30 million VR headsets in the market, mostly being used by gamers. And those gamers — 1.7 billion worldwide today, he estimated — average 40 hours a week on their TVs, PCs, consoles, tablets and smartphones combined (a market worth $189 billion, he said).
“All of those hours could be spent in VR,” he said. “The challenge is just getting into that market. The key to VR will be to deliver an experience that’s so utterly compelling, you’ll do whatever it takes to continue to get it. If you make it fantastic, they’ll come back.”
However, there’s a few problems standing between Hollywood and a full VR uptake among consumers, Taylor added. He said that it would be prohibitively expensive to produce a 90-minute feature in full VR right now, that the headsets for the home that are in the pipeline are likely going to be expensive and that VR filmmaking technology needs a lot of work.
“It’s good, but not good enough for a 90-minute production,” he added.
But there have been some recent VR announcements out of Hollywood that show support for the concept in a big way. Netflix and Facebook-owned Oculus VR have worked together to bring the Netflix app to the Samsung Gear VR headset; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced plans to bring approximately 100 library titles to Oculus VR and Gear VR headsets; and Hulu has announced it will release a new VR app this fall, allowing users to stream library content and original short-form content in a 3D environment.
At the AIS event, Philip “Captain 3D” McNally — who spent years supervising 3D for places such as Industrial Light & Magic, Disney and DreamWorks Animation, before recently joining VR video start-up Condition One — said a number of things are working in favor of Hollywood and VR. The headset technology is evolving in leaps and bounds and the highly sought after younger male demographic is already latching on to VR.
But there are also problems with both content creation and home adoption, he stressed. Filmmaking has always been from the perspective of the storyteller, so VR features may detract from that in unexpected ways. Today’s cinematographers will have to learn entirely new methods and deal with entirely new equipment. And maybe, most importantly, will consumers be able to handle a 360-degree experience for a long period of time?
“We do lose some possibilities [with VR],” McNally said. “But we also gain some real, new distinctions, like being confronted with a character in ways no other technology can produce. It’s challenging, but also pretty exciting.”