Is that a brand sitting next to me?

Virtual_RealityThe other night I was having dinner with some friends, one of whom just wrapped filming on a movie called “Career Opportunities in Organized Crime”. Of course it’s fun to know someone who makes a living acting, especially when he’s in a leading role in a movie as is this case. But the geek in me got really excited when he began talking about the challenges of making this particular film. That’s because it was filmed two ways: conventionally and then for virtual reality. It is, in fact, the first full-length film shot specifically for VR and the plan is for it to be released next year with VR headsets from various companies including Sony, Facebook and Samsung.

Rick, the aforementioned actor, regaled us with stories about how crazy it is to film this type of experience. That’s because there aren’t really cuts within scenes if you’re making it for VR. Instead of delivering a few lines in one shot which would then be juxtaposed in post-production with other shots to create a scene, the actors and crew had to capture the entire length of a scene in a single take in order to enable a future viewer the ability to explore the totality of the scene however he or she chooses. For example, Rick’s character may be front and center in the scene, but in VR a viewer needs to be able to turn around and see what’s happening behind her, or off screen to the left or whatever, and all of that needs to be accounted for while filming. The director used this crazy mishmash of GoPros to capture every angle and then of course the actors needed to deliver all the lines for a full scene so that it was all captured at once with no cuts. It is a very different and challenging approach to filmmaking and one that requires a completely new way to produce content.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of focus on the notion of storytelling and particularly how brands can tell their stories. In listening to Rick talk about his experience on set I started to think of all the new hurdles and issues that brands (and their agencies) will need to tackle once VR is a more common part of our viewing lexicon. How does storytelling change when you don’t have complete control over what your audience may be seeing at any given time? How do things like the physical environment become more important in reinforcing your brand story, and how does the investment needed to produce content for this change from where it is today? And finally how do you ensure that VR is additive to a brand experience and not simply a gimmick that doesn’t actually deliver a more meaningful, immersive experience? As a marketer the idea of enabling someone to feel totally surrounded and embedded in an environment of our making is very exciting, but the complexity of that new world is a bit daunting, too.

Luckily I have a ringer living around the corner who can give me some good advice for the price of a homemade dinner and decent glass of wine.

(You can read more about “Career Opportunities in Organized Crime” on their Facebook page)