Industry Report: Digital
A look at recent innovations in virtual reality
by Fran Royo & Sandra Echeverri
- The first conference of the European Film Forum delved into the innovations in virtual reality and augmented reality in European works
(l-r) Ron Sterk, Ignacio Perez Dolset and Peter Aalbaek Jensen
The first conference of the European Film Forum was held during the first day of the event (read the news) which took place in Brussels from 1-2 December and was entitled "Looking to the Future: Adaptation or Revolution?" Its panellists were Peter Aalbaek Jensen, producer and co-founder of Zentropa, Ilion Animation Studios founder and chief creative officer Ignacio Perez Dolset and Ron Sterk, CEO of Vue Netherlands. Moderated by Domenico La Porta, of Cineuropa, the panel delved into different issues, such as the audiovisual model for the future audiovisual industry and its impact on European works. An exploration of the relationship between different processes was a key feature of this discussion marked by a shared feeling that change was in the air.
Big expenditure on innovation technology infrastructure
Sterk warned that some small regions like the Netherlands have neither the infrastructure nor the budgets to finance virtual-reality (VR) or augmented-reality (AR) projects, “if they are aimed only at Dutch audiences”. Aalbaek Jensen believed that the focus should be placed on a market that still wishes to consume cinema, highlighting that “it’s again not about the format, but about the content” and that the European film industry should learn to “differentiate between film and other things”, when he was asked about VR technologies.
When reflecting on the success of products that imply inherent innovation, Perez believed it was crucial to have efficient means of distribution, which he considered even more relevant than the content itself. He was very optimistic about the “potential and the talent of virtual-reality simulation in Europe”, which sadly is “leaving to America (...), where the industry actually is”. He then remarked on the importance of “having both creativity and the animation industry here in Europe”. His Ilion Animation Studios has partnered with U-tad, the first official pan-European university focused purely on the world of digital arts and technology, which gave rise to the animated production Planet 51 [+see also:
film profile]. Thanks to an agreement reached with Sony Pictures, Planet 51 was the first European animated film to be shown in at least 3,500 theatres across the USA.
The role of the audience
Denmark's Peter Aalbaek Jensen reminded those present that it was possible to learn from the traditional market without trying to please the audience, also referring to Netflix’s marketing strategies with series productions (Stranger Things, House of Cards and so on).
Sterk trusted in co-productions and in private and public funding in order to ensure that we catch up with an innovation that “won’t stop”, and which “will require increasingly complex storytelling”. Still, he stressed the “differences between a theme park and a cinema experience” when putting technological advances under the microscope.
Perez Dolset maintained that European filmmakers should be smarter than people on YouTube and American blockbuster producers, perhaps “learning from TV shows and questioning the current European cinema market”.
There are currently more than 150 companies from over 20 European countries sitting within 18 virtual-reality product categories, according to GreenLight Insights, as shown in the following chart:
And as this graphic from DigiCapital shows, the highest AR/VR revenue per user arises in North America, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. Combining the forecasts by sector and country/region, it indicates that Asia (China, Japan, South Korea and others) could lead in terms of AR/VR revenue by 2020, followed by Europe and North America.
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