TH6 Panel Information

Transforming Hollywood 6: Alternative Realities, World Building and Immersive Entertainment
May 8, 2015

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Panel One – 9:10 – 11:00 a.m.
Prototype the Planet: How and Why Expansive and Immersive Worlds Are Taking Over Our Collective Imagination

Moderated by Henry Jenkins, USC

Panel Two – 11:10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Brand New Vistas: VR & AR Create New Frontiers in Art and Promotion

Moderated by Denise Mann, UCLA

Panel Three – 2:00 – 3:50 p.m.
Hip Deep in Knowledge: Virtual Museums, Immersive Journalism, and Scientific Vistas

Moderated by Robert Hernandez, USC

Panel Four – 4:00 – 5:50 p.m.
There’s Art all Around Us: The Aesthetics of Immersive Experiences

Moderated by Jeff Burke, UCLA

Special Event on Virtual Production – 6:15 – 7:30 p.m.
A Conversation with Academy® Award-winning Producer Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar franchise), moderated by Tom Nunan, UCLA TFT Lecturer and Executive Producer of the Academy Award-winning film Crash

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View all TH6 panelists.

Building the Virtual Reality Business

After years of being seen as a futuristic illusion, Virtual Reality has matured into a serious industry phenomenon, emerging as the new dimension in the converging world of media, entertainment, and technology. Widely touted as the next universal frontier that is about to be crossed, analysts predict that VR is well-positioned to revolutionize the traditional spectrum of media activity, from filmmaking to gaming, and social networking. As a result, VR has raised significant interest in the media business, specifically for its promise of total immersion. The concept of sealed-off immersive environments completely focused on user/consumer engagement, on “being there,” is an extremely valuable prospect for both storytellers and advertisers.

Accordingly, the current use of VR is heavily centered on promotional events. Content providers and IP holders increasingly entertain the services of expert producers to “VR” their marketing campaigns, to make them more interactive and experiential. Notable trends include coverage of live events, movie pre-release advertainments, extended TV experiences, and brand-sponsored initiatives. Small boutique production vendors are leading the way but key industry players like Disney and DreamWorks have recently launched in-house innovation units to invest in VR. Experimentation with and development of content is the key driver of VR but the technology’s main challenge lies in evolving from a novelty into a utility.

Virtual Reality needs a strong and growing user/consumer base to enter the mainstream. Not surprisingly, VR’s main investors are leading technology companies, especially those focused on platform and hardware services. In 2012, Facebook acquired Silicon Beach startup Oculus Rift for $2 billion, launching an industry-wide investment spree. The company has since released upgrades of its consumer headset and opened a virtual film studio to help storytellers shape content development. Oculus is an integral part of Facebook’s corporate mission strategy to make the world more open and connected, allowing users to share a place and presence, according to the company. Another major player is Samsung which seeks to leverage VR to expand the mobile web. Samsung’s VR Gear, a consumer headset, facilitates seamless smartphone integration. Additionally, the company recognized the need for content offering and struck partnerships to support its product launch with a content slate. Sony, a long-standing VR proponent, launched Project Morpheus, a headset expected to fit into the company’s multimedia strategy, most notably via the Playstation network.

The Virtual Reality business is in a crucial stage of development, with 2015 seeing the release of several direct-to-consumer initiatives. VR’s integration into existing services is designed to showcase its viability while content delivery pipelines need to be put in place to ensure broader adoption and usage. It is a time of opportunity and challenge for content and technology companies as they work to lay the foundation for VR to be more than just another fleeting gimmick.

Further Reading

Virtual Reality isn’t just for video games,” Los Angeles Times, January 2015

Virtual reality is going to change everything,” Business Insider, November 2014

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality,” The Verge,August 2014

Transforming Hollywood 6 Announcement

Transforming Hollywood 6: Alternative Realities, World Building and Immersive Entertainment

Friday, May 8, 2015
James Bridges Theater
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

If you want up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening with the conference, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

New digital technologies come and go, but the public’s desire to engage with immersive storytelling worlds is here to stay. In 2014, Facebook and Google each entered the alternative realities game with a vengeance. Facebook spent $2 billion to acquire the latest virtual reality (VR) hardware company, Oculus Rift, invented by Palmer Luckey. Google countered by investing in augmented reality (AR) start-up Magic Leap, a firm that hyped its wares with a twenty-three second video clip of a lifelike elephant held aloft in a human hand. Soon after, Microsoft jumped on board with its own AR offering, HoloLens. Samsung used VR to stimulate sales of its latest Samsung Galaxy Note 4 by making its Gear VR Innovator Edition incompatible with all other smart phones and devices. Not to be outdone, Sony announced Project Morpheus, a VR system to enhance game play on its Playstation 4.

Each of these internet technology (IT) giants claims to have high-minded goals for their new platforms—as a means to enhance human capabilities in the worlds of education, science, medicine, and the fine arts. Most likely, each of these Silicon Valley industries is looking to Hollywood and Madison Avenue partners as part of a long-term monetization scheme. After all, both the content industries and the consumer brand industries are eager to whet millennial audiences’ appetites for the latest form of tech-fueled fun. At present, there’s a glut of VR and AR gadgets and not enough content. Therefore, cutting edge artists are stepping into the void, offering to experiment with these new immersive world-building tools, even if it means they must create an occasional Budweiser Margarita girl that morphs into a 4D hologram in order to pay the bill.

While dial-up modems created a generation that was addicted to email and search in the early days of the internet, once broadband internet infiltrated our homes, a generation of digital natives became addicted to making, streaming, and sharing content in the Web 2.0 era. What else does the future hold? Futurists, who spoke at the Mobile Media Summit in Barcelona in 2014, wondered out loud whether the “gigabit internet” will create a generation hooked on augmented reality, holograms, virtual reality headsets, and other “wearables” by 2025. Indeed, as pundits observed at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, brand marketers are placing bets not only on VR and AR, but also on our fascination with the “internet of things” – smart devices (including sensory-driven thermostats, data-driven sleep monitors, and self-driving cars) that communicate with us by means of our mobile phone. But what if “the internet of things” isn’t just another way to seed consumer desire for superfluous gadgets and services?

Some see these new technologies and new experiential worlds moving us closer to that highly anticipated, if dreaded, moment when artificial intelligence outpaces human intelligence. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if iPhone’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, like Spike Jone’s Samantha in Her, outgrow their humans? In 1992, Neal Stephenson’s seminal cyberpunk novel Snow Crash imagined a future-world in which all of us are part of a virtual shared space. Those who chose to stay connected to this Metaverse via portable goggles and other equipment were called “gargoyles” for their outlandish appearance. It looks as if Stephenson’s vision is more prescient than we originally thought. Gargoyles, get ready to step out of the CAVE, strap on your Oculus Rift, HoloLens, Samsung gear, or Morpheus goggles, for the future is now.

The tendency to discuss immersive entertainment in a breathlessly futuristic language, through metaphors of science fiction, masks the larger history of these techniques and practices across the 20th and even 19th century. Thus, a key strand of this year’s event involves bringing together the perspectives of technologists with those of historians who work on earlier moments of media change, a vantage point which can help us to qualify sweeping claims about the impacts of these still emerging (and often precarious) technologies by looking at how earlier generations sought to expand sensory perceptions, to map and explore complex worlds, to immerse themselves into multimedia presentations, or to create intense collective experiences that remove us from the constraints of the everyday. We are not the first generation of entertainers who wanted to create a sense of awe in spectators, of journalists who wanted to convey a more vivid sense of the world, of museums who wanted to bring their visitors into a more immediate relationship to remote corners of human knowledge, or artists who have sought to teach us new ways to see, touch, smell, taste, or hear the world around us.

Proudly presented by the Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation