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Consumer Entertainment could be Transformed by Episodic Virtual Reality Content

Consumer Entertainment could be Transformed by Episodic Virtual Reality Content
Virtual reality (VR)   startups are now hoping it will transform their market in the same manner that the development of serialized content had transformed traditional entertainment media.
The so called first animated science-fiction VR series is being developed by Warrior9, a Singapore‐based video and VR production house. Technologies such as motion-capture, the process of incorporating human movement into a three-dimensional model, are among the range of technologies used for the show called 'The PhoenIX' is aimed to document mankind's race for survival against an unknown enemy and is set in space.
Motion-capture experienced in VR injects a stronger dose of realism by making viewers feel like they are actually in 'The PhoenIX,' floating in space or caught in the middle of a frenetic dogfight, unlike conventional animation.
"The majority of VR non-gaming content currently comprises of short films and videos. There are few things to keep you coming back. We would watch something amazing in VR like [animated film] 'Allumette' from Penrose Studios and then go hunting for something else," chief creative director Abhi Kumar said while explaining why his team chose to focus on episodes, instead of one-off experiences.
While a teaser will be released next month, the production of the first season—consisting of nine episodes—is expected to be completed by end 2017.
Including the mobile-friendly Google Cardboard and higher-end devices like Razer's OSVR, Warrior9 hopes to make the series available on as many headsets as possible.

With more hardware available on the market, as VR increasingly penetrates the mainstream consciousness, "the technology required to pull off such an ambitious project has finally gotten to the point where you no longer need a huge studio to create engaging visuals to go along with the story," noted Race Krehel, The PhoenIX's lead VR animator.
With more investors throwing their support behind content players, not just hardware makers, innovative storytelling is set to be the next frontier for VR.
"I'm very optimistic about the opportunity that content developers (in all forms, from art to culture to entertainment) will have in the VR future," explained Mario Valle, ‎co-founder and managing partner at Altered Ventures, a VC fund specializing in VR and augmented reality (AR). Narratives will be one of the reasons why the VR industry will shine, he added.
Also focused on episodic material is Jaunt China, a joint venture of Silicon Valley-based Jaunt. It already has several projects in the pipeline but is unable to disclose any details, launched this year in partnership with Shanghai Media Group and China Media Capital, two of China's largest media companies.
"Episodic narratives did change the game for TV…. I suspect VR will take a similar form but we may not be there yet as the art of VR storytelling is still being defined, the technologies are still being developed and the platforms are still in infancy," explained James Fong, CEO of Jaunt China.
Early entrants are blessed with both advantages and challenges because major streaming and television companies such as Netflix and HBO have yet to announce their entry into serialized VR content.
For Fong, running time and viewing habits are among the biggest obstacles.
"The focus will be on more narrative VR content and incorporating some form of interactivity within the narrative itself. For example, one of the ideas that we're looking at is a 'choose your own adventure' story, where viewers can decide the outcome of key pivotal events in the storyline," said Warrior9's Kumar.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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