FOLLOW UP – Virtual Reality. Is it for You? – Exploring NYVR

I attended the NYVR conference last week at the Javits Center in New York City, which collocated with PPE (Photo Plus Expo). I’m not quite sure that VR is for me especially from a content creator’s point of view

NYVR Show

but I do see a lot of possibilities as a user.

Here are some highlights from the NYVR show and seminars:

The conference took place over three days with two days of seminars directed to those in the industry and one day toward users or consumers. I attended sessions on all three days, which gave me great insights from different perspectives. The sessions directed toward those already working in the industry were very compelling even though a lot of the information was over my head. However, I had the extra value of learning from the attendees and their questions

The VR industry is making a big presence in New York City. Los Angeles is a huge center for content creation and San Francisco is a big center for tech and New York City is where major Networks are located and where a lot the money is. The industry is in its infancy so for a start-up company it’s a big plus to be just a subway ride away from major Network headquarters and Wall Street investors.

One session that intrigued me was Spatial Audio in VR. VR isn’t or shouldn’t be just only a visual experience. It should be an experience that touches upon many of our senses and certainly sounds. That’s what makes it immersive. Mono audio in VR is somewhat like watching black & white TV. To truly give a viewer an immersive experience the audio that a user experience needs to impact them as well as the visual does. Sounds should change as the user walks through an environment or turns their head. Prices have come down for binaural audio headsets making them more affordable and accessible for the consumer. Check out Hooke Audio.

Another session I attended was VR Tourism with a speaker from YouVisit who is working in that space.

Some interesting stats about the travel market:

  1. It’s highly competitive
  2. Consumers seek large amounts of resources before finally making a decision.
  3. Usually, a consumer makes 350 touch points before making a decision.
  4. Tourism has one of the lowest conversion rates in the e-commerce space.
  5. VR lends to have a much bigger conversion rate – about 24%! The more immersive the experience is, the more engagement a user makes and the more of an emotional connection they have with the content, bringing the consumer closer to their decision. It’s important to get the user to “buy” and make that possible for them while they are still in the VR space.

I sat in on a panel discussion about Branding and Marketing with VR. VR does well with brands that are emotive, brands that you have to feel. If you are able to identify the emotion that you want someone to feel about your brand, then you can create a good VR experience. VR also turns someone who has had a VR experience into an advocate because they talk about. And that has real value. VR is a good space for capturing user data because it’s interactive. It’s easy to see how and where the user connects with the experience.

Traditionally, advertisers have targeted people in the 18-34-age bracket. VR has also been targeting that same demographic because their typical user comes from the gaming space where VR has played a big role. I wonder though if that target will change somewhat and perhaps include the “baby boomers”, especially since it’s a huge demographic and still holds the majority of the wealth? It seems to me that there is a lot of opportunity in that area and not just in the area of pain management. I see opportunities in travel and entertainment that can provide VR experiences when the real experiences are no longer accessible – like climbing Mount Everest.

It’s a brave new world. Or is it a virtual one?

Check out more about Virtual Reality in my last post from NAB New York.

 

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2017 NAB NY – Virtual Reality is Very Real

I recently spent a couple of days at the NAB NY Show (National Association of Broadcasters). It’s much smaller than the annual NAB Show held in Las Vegas every year, but it is definitely worth the time.

This year I focused my attention on VR (Virtual Reality). To be honest, as much as VR intrigues me I’m not sure it’s for me simply because I’m all about real experiences as opposed to virtual ones. Nevertheless, the future implications of this technology are mind-blowing.

NAB NY is much more limited on space than the Las Vegas conference so VR didn’t have much of a physical presence at the show. However, there were quite a few interesting floor talks that intrigued me and were well attended.

This technology is in its infancy but its also experiencing exponential growth. Naysayers predict it will go the way of 3-D TV sets but my instincts tell me otherwise. Right now its popularity is in the gaming industry but these sessions opened my eyes to numerous possibilities. Nab New York 2017But speaking of gaming, check out PokemonGo or this demo video from Oculus Connect 4.

In terms of filmmaking, it’s an immersive experience which touches upon all of our senses and is not just visual. In fact, there’s a term used in VR called “haptic” which means “relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception.” One filmmaker Alton Glass, described it as letting you get into someone else’s shoes and live the experience. Because it’s immersive it creates a more empathetic storytelling experience. Some doubters say it’s isolating, however, one speaker pointed out that you can actually be immersed with other people in the virtual experience.

Check out filmmaker Alton Glass’s 2D behind the scenes excerpt about the making of his film “A Little Love”

 Branding experiences in VR. Tom Westerlin of Nice Shoes makes some good points about using VR in advertising/branding:

  • Once you put on a headset you have someone’s undivided attention
  • VR can create a lot of feelings – love, excitement, empathy
  • From a brand perspective, you can create a whole world.
  • It’s suspended disbelief. It’s not a hard sell and one doesn’t feel like they are being marketed to.
  • VR can offer a treasure trove of data by finding out what people are focusing on in a virtual story. Some see e-commerce using VR in the near future.

Travel – It’s perfect for an armchair traveler who may not have the funds or the access to certain places. Or perhaps VR is a great way to show off a property or resort. To be honest, I want to really experience a place, but there may be times that I don’t have access or I may simply want a better reference of a destination or hotel than what more traditional mediums offer. Look at this sample VR sample – is this a game or a virtual travel experience.

VR is being used in healthcare to minimize pain rather than to solely resort to drugs. That in itself is something to think about especially because we are experiencing an opioid epidemic. One spokesman pointed out that it can reduce pain impact by about 60-70%. It’s being used now to help people with autism learn as well as in challenging mental health disorders like PTSD. VR is also being used for medical training.

Education – Harvard Business School provides amazing VR experiences that used to be available only on their campus but are now available all over the world. Interesting to point out that the most valuable part of this experience isn’t just watching the videos but the discussion with the immersive community. What Harvard is doing with VR,

Entertainment – While VR is still in its infancy in this sector, it’s quite impressive. VR allows a venue to sell the best seat in the houseNab New York 2017 a million times. IMAX opens first VR theater in LA.

Certainly, there are challenges to overcome with VR. Headsets need to be wireless, which is essential for growth in this medium. Bandwidth is not a challenge, but latency is because of the round trip delay. If you’re confused between AR and VR or 360, check out this video interview with a spokesperson from Radiant Images and listen to what they’re working on. And if you want more insight on where the experts think this technology is going then check out this TechCrunch article

It will be interesting to see what’s next in this technology. It will also be interesting to see if there will be any unintended consequences. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Business Tips for Photographers in a Multiple Media World

In the blogging sphere of photography and video there is a lot written about gear and how to use it, but precious little written about business.  Chances are, if you are photographer who has been in business for more than 10 years then you know that technology has not only changed our tools, it has changed the way we do business.

For starters we are doing business in a global economy and with that comes pluses and minuses.

Cuba-3858
Havana, Cuba

One huge plus is that we are able to reach a much wider audience than ever before. That is if you have an understanding of how to do that and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.  One minus or downside is if we don’t adapt our dated business models in a business that has seen monumental changes we won’t be able to compete.

As commercial photographers we are in the visual communications business.  We create imagery that delivers a message or tells a story for a variety of markets including; advertising, corporate, architectural, editorial and others.  Each market has a need for visual content and these days that encompasses both still photography and video.  In the last couple of years the lines dividing these two mediums have faded away at least in terms of how content is consumed in our culture. What’s next – VR (virtual reality)?

Here are a couple of tips to help photographers prosper in our multi-media world:

  • Decide what your company will offer.  Will you only provide still imagery?  Or will you expand your business and offer both still photography and video? Are you quick to answer the question with; “I don’t want anything to do with video” ? The problem with that answer is that most of your clients probably have a dual need for stills and video.  Are you going to send them away to your competition?  Or will you keep your clients in house and take care of their video needs by hiring or outsourcing? That’s a different way of thinking and has the potential to broaden your revenue stream.
  • Decide what role you will play if your company does offer video?  Will you be the director and work with a camera operator?  Or will you assume the role of a DP (Director of Photography) and direct as well as operate the camera?
  • What will you outsource and what will you keep in house?  Maybe you want to expand your business by offering both still photography and motion but you’d prefer to just shoot the still photography and outsource the video.  In that case you could assume the role of the producer and oversee or outsource the video production.
  • Reassess your insurance.  Video productions have a lot more variables. They also usually have larger crews.  More than likely you will need to upgrade your current insurance policy to accommodate and cover that.
  • Change your paperwork.  Make sure that you go through your talent and property releases and modify the language for multi-media.  Change any and all boilerplate contract language to include video (motion).
  • Licensing.  Regardless, if you decide not to expand into video production you will have to contend with the fact that your still images won’t always be used in a stand-alone fashion.  Many still images will be commissioned and/or licensed as part of multi-media projects and that has a dramatic effect on licensing. And if you do decide to expand into video production you too will be licensing other people’s work.
  • Understand new business models.  Let’s face it things have changed in the business of photography.  Photography has become ubiquitous and the competition is fierce.  You are not only competing with professional photographers – you’re competing with semi-pros, amateurs AND video production companies.  One thing is certain, it’s never been more important to have an understanding of multiple mediums and to be unique and stand out amongst the noise. There are no templates you should follow.  Be authentic and true to yourself.
  • Keep an eye out for the next big thing. At this year’s NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Virtual Reality had a big presence. I’m not quite sure if it’s for me but I will follow the trend and keep my options open.

Check out more tips and information in my ePub The Craft and Commerce of Video and Motion.

 

VR – Virtual Reality – Will it Replace the Real Experience?

I just returned from the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show held annually each April in Las Vegas. With 4 huge convention halls displaying the latest and greatest technology and gear used in broadcasting, it’s simply overwhelming. Since I’ve never been enamored with just the NAB 2016gear component of my business (still photography and video), but rather in how I can apply or enhance the story that I’m working on, I spend most of my time attending the conference tracks.

Every year, there seems to be a new buzzword. Two years ago it was all about 4K. Last year it was drones (UAVs) and this year it was all about VR (virtual reality) but not the VR of the 1980’s. I’m talking about VR that provides a totally immersive experience for the viewer. Even though I was a bit skeptical and didn’t really see opportunities beyond the gaming sector, I made it a point to check out the VR Pavilion and take a look at some cameras ranging from Kodak’s PixPro SP360 4 K ($499-$899) to Spericam’s V2 a 360° video camera (actually 6 cameras) no bigger than a tennis ball that records in 4K with automatic-stitching, WiFi and streaming baked right in, making viewing and sharing content easy (around $2500), to the high end Nokia Ozo selling for $60,000! As far as the viewer end, here are some of the headset options out there: Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR

It wasn’t until I attended a session entitled, Being There – VR in News & Documentary that I began to realize the potential and possibilities of this technology. The panel consisted of filmmakers, journalists, and creative directors from news outlets (USA Today and Sky TV) who talked about how they were applying the tools and utilizing the medium. Like any new technology there are plenty of challenges in both the production and postproduction process, but with technology’s fast moving pace in this niche it’s only a matter of time before just about anyone and everyone will be able to create using this medium. One challenge right now is in stitching together the content in post that is created by 6 -10 cameras. It can be cumbersome and slow accompanied by hours of angst if the cameras haven’t been perfectly aligned and in sync with one another. A question was raised about the reluctance that viewers might have with not wanting to wear the necessary headset, which was one of the obstacles that kept 3D TV sets from being ubiquitous in all of our homes. The panelists answered by predicting that in a year’s time the headset will give way to a contact lens worn by the viewer.

As a story driven content creator, I needed to know why I would want to deliver a story in VR. After this session the light bulbs went off. Because it’s an immersive experience for the viewer, it can also be an incredibly empathic and emotional medium. Imagine the possibilities – red carpet events, concerts or documentaries where you want the viewer to have a truly immersive experience. VR also provides an opportunity for authenticity because it removes the layers between the journalist and the viewer as opposed to 2D, which could have been created on a sound stage.

Even though the principles of storytelling haven’t changed this is a medium that requires a new language or lexicon with new rules. For instance, there is no cropping in VR. There are two important considerations when creating VR. One is proximity and you have to get the camera in close – no more than 2 feet from a subject that the camera may be following. The other component is to have a narrator or presenter – a kind of tour guide that can direct the viewer through the experience. Usually it’s the journalist rather than a voiceover talent, which can be a bit unnerving in this medium or like the voice of God coming out of nowhere. An alternative to using a narrator would be to use graphical overlays that guide the viewer visually. All the panelists agreed that because it’s such an authentic experience for the viewer it’s a medium that’s conducive to creating empathy and moving people to take action. Some said because it is so authentic it may mislead people inadvertently to disconnect because they have no sense of danger and we run the risk of viewers becoming numb to the experience but only if the filmmaker doesn’t provide the opportunity for a call to action. Live streaming in VR is a game changer because now filmmakers can influence in real time.

I’m not yet convinced that it’s a medium for me or if I’m ready to be a pioneer and deal with what comes with that. The rewards and opportunities are there, as they usually are for frontrunners. That is if it isn’t just a passing fad and you’re willing to take that risk. There is already a trade association for VR creators, IVRPA (The International Virtual Reality Photography Association) so my guess is it’s more than a passing fad. In a world of couch potatoes or those stifled by fear, there may be plenty of people who will choose VR over the real experience.

Check it out for yourself.

VR Stories by USA Today Network

Immerse Yourself in Stories of America 

Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gannett.vrstories&hl=enand

iTunes App Store
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vr-stories-by-usa-today/id975006820?mt=8

Condition One*
Experience a Perilous World with At-Risk Species, and at a Factory Farm

Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.conditionone.vrplayer_cardboard&hl=en

Platform agnostic streaming with or without Cardboard:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3VWeehBnL_VL-92K6VImiw

Ryot – VR
Go Around the World to See New Perspectives, Regions, Cultures and People

Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.apto.ryot_vr&hl=en

iTunes App Store
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ryot-vr/id1046058227?mt=8

Platform agnostic streaming with or without Cardboard:
http://www.ryot.org/virtualreality/the-second-line-a-parade-against-violence
(This piece is a RYOT and AP collaboration. Go inside New Orleans, one of our nation’s most culturally rich cities in a socially, politically, and emotionally potent moment in time.)

Google Cardboard
Launch Your Favorite VR Experiences, Discover New Apps, and Set Up a Viewer

Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.samples.apps.cardboarddemo&hl=en

iTunes App Store
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-cardboard/id987962261?mt=8

Platform agnostic streaming with or without Cardboard:
youtube.com/360