As someone new to working with VR and AR, i’m going to be keeping a blog detailing the exciting work Surround Vision are doing within this space, while also documenting my own learning curve as I try to unzip my 2D narrative mind, embracing the void…

I’ve been the Head of Production at Surround Vision for four months. After a decade producing traditional ‘pancake’ media; (my favourite term) films, documentaries, shorts, to varying degrees of success, I was getting pretty disillusioned. Film is struggling right now. Finance is getting harder to secure, cinema screens virtually impossible to lock down, the audience increasingly apathetic about movies (66% of Netflix users never watch films) and gatekeepers unwilling to take chances on new talent… I fear for the future of my first love.

As a lifelong gamer I’ve always had an eye on VR. But while the delivery system offers so much potential I never had an experience that convinced me it was the next big thing. I often hear people compare VR to Cinema 3D, in that its little more than a clever gimmick.

But recently my mindset has changed. It occurred to me recently while checking out the subtly brilliant Wolves in the Walls VR experience from Fable Studio. I realised then. It’s not a gimmick, it’s an ocean of potential.

Six months ago I didn’t know anything about the tech, the workflow or the distribution model. And four months into a challenging new role i’m not exactly an expert, but as a traditional creative producer in narrative content, and as a gamer who understands the power of interactive storytelling, the opportunity with VR and AR to break new ground is really enticing. I’ve produced eight feature films and two feature documentaries.

Some are great, some not so great.

The one thing they all have in common is that they all conform to narrative norms. They all have a protagonist, an antagonist, a central conceit and a character arc. After 130 years of cinema the blueprint has been set. The chances of me bringing anything new to that table, the table of Kubrick, Ozu & Tarkovsky… well… pretty slim.

Stanley Kubrick shooting film (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Credit: (Evening Standard/Getty Images) Kubrick and many other talented directors set the bar for traditional films, now we’re in a new age of opportunity with VR and 360.

 

Within this space though there is so much to play for. As a film maker you have to follow certain rules, but as a VR/AR content creator we get to make the rules! Despite all the great creative minds working in this space, It feels accepted that we haven’t had our ‘Jaws’ moment yet. I’m not sure there’s even been a Citizen Kane yet. That being a standard bearer for the norms of how to guide a viewer through an experience. At SV we’re developing projects that require us to learn new techniques every single day. It’s those lessons that I hope to share over the coming months.

And that is exciting! We’re at the start of something new. Ironically I’m told by some in the industry that “VR is dead”. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t buy it. We just need an injection of creativity. We are the masters of our own destiny! Who knows, one of us might be the first Orson Welles of this new way of experiencing stories. I bloody hope its me.

– Craig Tuohy, Head of Production

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