The Film and Interactive disciplines at SXSW are home to many VR experiences and they often intersect. As a matter of fact, the interactive nature of cinematic VR experiences is a quality that’s underestimated by those employing the efforts of production teams. We discussed this and other VR topics with Christine Cattano, Framestore’s Global Head of VR, during SXSW.
The Framestore crew is, collectively, some of the best minds in visual effects and VR having not only created virtual spaces inspired by works such as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, but also creating immersive experiences like the actual magic school bus we reported on back in August last year. At SXSW, Cattano will be speaking at the “Wrapped Up In The Big Screen” session about the evolution of cinematic entertainment marketing. Cattano points out that, during the last couple years, marketers have been tapping VR platforms during the promotional run for a film or a TV show.
“I think now we’re starting to see a bit of an evolution of that,” she says. Now teams beyond marketing are thinking of ways to use the immersive platform not only during the promo window but the in-home release and maybe even in-between sequels if a film has multiple installments. “We’ve really seen this extension in the thinking and timeline for how people are looking at [VR experiences], which is great because it opens up new resources to content creators and production companies.”
VR and AR also brings a unique set of challenges for creators, one that producers may not truly take into account when green-lighting them, according to Cattano.
“What’s a challenge [for production teams] is the marketing timelines that they work within,” Cattano says. “We’ve had to do several of our projects within an 8-week time frame. That’s not really optimal for creating a piece of interactive software ultimately. You want to give yourself time for user testing, feedback, and prototyping to make sure that the experience that you’re designing is powerful and it’s doing things what you want it to do.”
The message seems to be that those in charge of doling out cash to build VR experiences for a particular movie or TV show need to understand that creators are still working with legacy platforms in the building process and it is simply not realistic to stick them with the same windows of time to finish a project that non-VR teams work with. This is especially true if those VR experiences are also interactive. These professional teams, especially an experienced company like Framestore, have a solid grasp of what does and does not work in these experiences as well as how long it realistically takes to bring it to fruition.
Cattano also suggests “putting a little bit more control in the hands of the content creators to really steer how you approach things.”
Despite these barriers, the Framestore crew continues to be one of the leading collaborators with filmmakers for high-quality interactive VR. Though they couldn’t share exactly what’s in the works, they suggest staying tuned for a big announcement.