This page is updated periodically to reflect Amplify content and events related to immersive content and virtual reality. Check back soon to get more insights about how VR and related technologies are shifting the media and entertainment landscape.
What Is Immersive Content?
“Immersion means deeper viewer involvement in the content — the game, the story (the video service, the advertising, the sponsors) and it’s usually held to mean a presentational upgrade,” writes Adrian Pennington. “Greater resolution is front and center of the immersive experience but it’s not just about pixels. All the UHD attributes come into play: dynamic range, frame rate, color gamut, bit depth and enhanced audio.”
Read Pennington’s full explainer about immersive video, and learn why he believes it’s the future of content./
In another article, Pennington writes that Scott Daly of Dolby Laboratories thinks truly immersive experiences “should find ways to mimic how human brains become emotionally impacted by visual experiences.” That’s when mirror neurons come into play, scientists think.
Of course, not everyone is convinced that virtual reality is all it’s cracked up to be. Critics say that the “if you build it, they will come” approach may be a bit arrogant, or at least not the right path for all future content creation.
Perhaps we will skip widespread adoption of both augmented (remember Pokémon Go?) and virtual reality. Some experts believe that the metaverse and XR — extended reality — will be what really takes off. Time will tell which, if any, resonate with consumers and creators. (My money’s on some version of all three.)
Nonetheless, VR experiences have found an audience — one that continues to grow and engage with this genre of content in new and innovative ways.
Does Finding Pandora X Represent the New Theatrical Model?
One pioneering example of this new type of content is Finding Pandora X, a modern and interactive interpretation of the Greek myth of Pandora’s box.
Part live theatre (each performance features trained actors), part movie, and part video game (the audience participates as members of the chorus embarking on a quest), this unique show has been recognized by both the Venice Biennale and SXSW 2021. In fact, according to Broadway World, Finding Pandora X “was the first live virtual reality performance in history to win a Lion at the Venice International Film Festival.”
Double Eye Studios says its Virtual Repertory Theatre’s “mission is to bring meaningful stories combined with interactivity and play into fully immersive storyworlds.” In the case of Finding Pandora X, the branching narrative might take participants into a bustling city or an Olympian bar.
These performances requires an unusual level of audience engagement (and of course, a VR headset), but are perfect for a pandemic-ridden and interconnected world.
VR Scout’s Kyle Melnick writes that Pandora X is live VR at its finest. “Whether it be the phenomenal acting or strong emphasis on player interactivity, Double Eye Studio’s unique multi-person experience is the perfect blend of modern technology and classic live theater. Plus you get to keep the custom Greek Chorus avatar for personal use on VRChat, almost like a digital goody-bag.”
Apparently, Melnick’s not alone in his enthusiasm.
I had so much fun joining Zeus and Hera on Mount Olympus at #FindingPandoraX at @SXSW! 😍— Serena (@ohno_notuagain) March 19, 2021
I am so impressed by the incredible world @DoubleEyePro created!🤩
Thanks @JonDavidMartin, @trebu_chat & the whole team for the most fun I had in #VR in a very long time!#SXSW #SXSWFilm pic.twitter.com/5ga1GEQomr
I’ve been a member of the #GreekChorus in @DoubleEyePro‘s #FindingPandoraX. @DoubleEyeCo did the most amazing job in combining #ImmersiveTheater with all the great traits #VR offers like #collaboration or #flying, and @JonDavidMartin rocked Zeus better than the god himself 💜⚡️😎 pic.twitter.com/pmv1EYWDcO— XaoS💜😎 (@XaosPrincess) March 19, 2021
Learning and Networking in Virtual Reality
Double Eye Studios Executive Creative Director and founder Kiira Benzing is a classically trained actress and filmmaker who discovered live immersive content at the Tribeca Film Festival. She hopes to inspire others to take a similar leap into this new genre
Hear from Benzing as she tells Lori H. Schwartz about her background, how she got into immersive theatre work, and what resources exist for those who might want to follow in her footsteps.
Some takeaways from the Q&A include:
- LIVE offers opportunities for writers, directors, actors, stage managers, producers, technologists, among others
- Double Eye Studios and its team value social connectivity and community
- You don’t necessarily need to know game engines, VR, or virtual production to get started in this space
- Free tools like the Unity platform and Unreal Engine are great for getting started
Watch the interview to discover the rest — or learn even more in our upcoming session, Live Immersive Virtual Entertainment — A New Genre of Content!, featuring Benzing and Alyssa Landry of Double Eye Studios, and HP’s Joanna Popper. Attendees will get a backstage tour of the virtual world of Finding Pandora X, and will also have the opportunity to meet and interact with others in the metaverse. (Note that you don’t have to own a VR headset to sign up, but it would add another dimension of amazing.)
The INFINITE and Virtual Production
What’s better than watching a space movie? Experiencing a space series.
“Powered by Unreal Engine, The INFINITE employs a mixture of 3DoF/6DoF VR, spatial audio, and interactive hotspots to deliver a real-time environment for attendees to wander as they navigate VR videos, a multisensory reproduction of a liftoff, and an immersive space walk, captured live outside of the ISS,” writes Jennifer Wolfe. “Designed to give viewers access to what’s called the “Overview Effect,” a euphoric shift in awareness that astronauts report when they see Earth for the first time in space, The INFINITE is enormously profound.”
Read her full article and watch an interview with the creatives behind Space Explorers: The ISS Experience online here.
Immersive video and live events are also changing the way people experience museums and zoos. One such example is the Illuminarium located in metro Atlanta. Learn more about the cool new venue and its offerings, the first of which enables visitors to experience an African safari.
Sports Will Take Viewers to New Places
Athletic competitions offer a wealth of immersive opportunities to make viewers feel like they’re experiencing the big game on a whole new level, even if the stadium is on the other side of the globe.
Much of 2021’s soccer/football coverage, not to mention the Tokyo Olympics, featured immersive or augmented reality elements. For example, Discovery’s Cube studios and many other audiovisual cues attempted to take the sting out of the socially distant events.
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