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MIPCOM: VR ‘definitely here to stay’

Virtual reality VR Edinburgh Digital Entertainment FestivalVirtual reality is “definitely here to stay” and is “completely different from 3D” delegates at MIPCOM heard yesterday.

Speaking on a panel about ‘disruptive storytelling’, Neil Graham, executive producer at Sky VR Studios and Sky Movies, said that VR is a completely new ecosystem that has applications which extend “way beyond content and gaming” into areas such as education and architecture.

“A lot of people are comparing it to 3D but it’s completely different to 3D,” said Graham. “3D was a layer over an existing model, whereas VR is a new experience.”

Nathan Brown, senior vice-president, development and operations for Discovery Communications agreed with Graham that VR is “definitely here to stay”, noting that there is so much investment going into the nascent technology – something that will increase as the adoption of platforms like Google Daydream, Oculus and PlayStation VR all pick up.

“It’s a great time to be a VR content maker. Content is the oxygen that fuels all of these platforms, so it’s a great time to be in the business,” said Brown.

James Milward, president and executive producer of Secret Location, a Canada-based content studio for emerging platforms, predicted that VR would continue to evolve and change from its current format.

“For us, virtual reality lives in augmented reality, mixed reality, the ability to expand how we view content and space and immersion,” said Milward.

“I’m not sure that it will always look the same way or be the same way, but I think that the things we’re learning and developing as storytelling structures work well beyond VR as we look to more immersive platforms and formats.”

Milward likened the current state of VR to the early film industry where directors simply filmed plays and were yet to strike on the “defined language for that medium” that came through experimentation with editing and shot selection.

“We’re still trying to define all of those pieces in VR to help to launch where the format can get to – so that it actually transcends being compared to existing platforms and it starts to be its own format of storytelling and art.”

The comments came just weeks after Sky launched a dedicated virtual reality app that will feature content produced by Sky and the UK pay TV operator’s partners.

Discovery launched Seeker VR, an OTT 360°-video and virtual reality offering in September, while Secret Location worked to produce the short-form VR experience for SyFy drama Halcyon.