“360 Videos are not real virtual reality.”
If you’ve spent any time following the VR Space chances are you’ve heard that phrase more than once. As immersive and interesting as 360 videos can be, there are those that refuse to accept them as “true” VR due to their lack of interactive elements. 360 camera technology is improving all the time, but the content itself needs to improve as well if the medium wants to silence its critics within the industry. Fortunately for this emerging genre, however, a group of young San Francisco innovators setting out to make 360 videos cooler, more engaging, and, dare I say it, fun.
The SOAP Collective consists of three young entrepreneurs: Logan Dwight, Ian Hirschfeld and Jarreau Bowen (pictured above from left to right). This team may be small, but they have a very large goal: change the way people think about 360 videos and immersive media in general.
Looking at the SOAP Trio you probably wouldn’t peg them as a group of dedicated computer programmers and audio visual geeks. The traditional coder stereotype of stained clothes, messy hair and ill-fitting garments doesn’t apply to this group of tattoo-clad, stylishly dressed millenials. The SOAP boys are, for lack of a better word, cool. And they are trying to bring that same attitude to the somewhat-stagnant world of 360 video production.
“We’ve been deeply involved in technology and media since we were kids,” Dwight writes, “[I] designed and developed my first video game when I was 9 years old. Ian has been coding websites and making movies since junior high. We’re part of the generation that grew up with the Internet, and that has given us a unique set of creative skills and tastes. We know we’re not alone either. Our creativity sits at the axis of design, illustration, animation, interaction, and code. We call this skillset “The New Creative”.
For the SOAP collective, Achieving this New Creative is the key to unlocking better immersive content. The problem, however, is that most companies — even those in creative capitals like Silicon Valley, LA and New York — fail to adequately understand the power of their employees and the roles that they fill.
We’ve felt that there hasn’t yet been a definitive industry model built around The New Creative,” Dwight writes. “Often people are silo’d into jobs that utilize one or two skills. They are meant to focus down on a limited set of tasks. There are more cases of multi-skill jobs in the startup world, but they often come paired with extremely long hours and a lack of career stability. We wanted to build a company that embraced being a ‘creative swiss-army knife’. To solve this, we wanted cover 2 major things: Ownership and Lifestyle.”
The idea of ownership for SOAP is that, “every person, no matter their job, is some form of creative. Sales, HR, Accounting, etc. are all creative in their own ways…We are dedicated to creating a sense of ‘I built this’ in every project a person works on.”
On the other side of the coin, Lifestyle is, “the idea that your work should allow you to live the way you want to live. Your work should feel like a natural part of who you are, but it should not own and define your whole life.”
By putting an emphasis on creativity and the personal empowerment of each and every employee, SOAP is hoping to transform even the most basic immersive project into a memorable, artistic experience. On of their main series, VR Love Letters, is attempting to bring emotion and intimacy to a medium that is typically used to tell broad stories.
The SOAP Collective has so far done mostly private work for banks and other types of businesses, but their goal is to push their envelope even fuller as 2017 gets closer.
“The most current news for us is that we’re expanding our studio’s focus to push strongly into room-scale 3D VR. Following a year of strong development in the 360 video space, we’ve always planned to move the business into full VR on platforms such as Rift, Vive, PSVR. Our team has a background in video game and software development, so in many ways this is a homecoming for us,” Dwight writes.
The studio describes this mystery project as being, “Not quite a video game, but not passive VR cinema either. Our goal as a studio is to find the ideal storytelling niche for VR, to create interactive virtual worlds that everyone can enjoy.”
SOAP will also continue to make and innovate 360 videos in their search for the New Creative. Whether or not you believe 360 videos is VR, these young men are determined to convince you that they are art.
Disclaimer: The SOAP Collective is currently working out of an office in The Upload Collective co-working office, which they pay for. The Upload Collective and UploadVR are separated entities under the Upload umbrella to avoid conflicts of interest. This story was written solely on the merits of this interesting studio, and has not been sponsored in any way by SOAP.