VR in Education

Using virtual reality as an educational tool is no longer a fantasy, but a reality for many educational institutions. The creation of VR content can substantially enhance the field of education, bringing multiple advantages and opportunities to the traditional classroom. Success with VR in the field of education is happening now and with greater accessibility to VR devices in the classroom, VR is now becoming an integral part of education systems all over the world.

What’s in it for the students?

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-3-18-17-pmThere are reasons why VR is the technology that holds the potential to revolutionize the field of education: visibility, engagement, safety and focus.

The application of VR technology in education fully immerses students into a given subject, transforming learning into an engaging, game-like process. Using VR, students become active within the learning process, assessing and solving interactive tasks. For example, they could go rafting down the Amazon River or learn fire-fighting techniques – without any risk to their safety.

Virtual environments using real footage and computer graphics immerse students into the world of a given subject, commanding a student’s full concentration, being able to focus completely on the content. VR empowers us by taking learning, comprehension, and engagement to a completely new level.

Not just for students in the classroom

Any of the developed VR educational courses can be adapted for self-learning as well. The lessons can be accessed through online stores, such as Steam, the Oculus Store, Apple’s App Store, and Google Play Market. Every student screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-3-20-44-pmcan study and experience the material independently by using a simple VR device, like Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.

With the advancement of more affordable VR solutions – the field of education will soon be revolutionized, providing students all over the world with opportunities that they would never have had by simply attending regular classes.

Medical students can experience and practice operations. Even experienced surgeons can benefit, by  practicing a surgical procedure before they undertake it for real.

Think airline pilots, soldiers, and engineers. All of these professions would benefit from being able to practice within an immersive VR experience.

Travel anywhere

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Photo of camera rig for Machu Pichu film permit…no tripods allowed…

Imagine being able to travel anywhere and having access to experiences all over the world. I was recently fortunate enough to shoot VR 360 video in India traveling from Calcutta to Varanasi on a riverboat along the Ganges. I’ve also shot all over Cuba and am heading to Peru in 2 weeks to shoot VR in Cusco and Machu Pichu. Visiting these places through VR, provides insight that cannot be gained in the classroom or from a book.

Virtual Reality enables people to experience these situations and offers access to experiences that would be otherwise impossible to access.

Let me know what other uses you think there might be for VR in the classroom.

 

About Mike Wetmore:

Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com

Virtual Reality dramas…will they actual work?

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-9-41-02-pmDrama in VR

VR drama is still in the experimental stage for the most part, but it’s starting to gain real traction in short format series. The real power of VR is it puts you directly into the scene. Wearing a headset and headphones leads the viewer to believe they are really there. In that situation it’s impossible not to be affected by what is happening around you and feel real empathy for characters.

In a VR drama, the viewer is engaged and responsible for keeping up with the action. As a director we block out and choreograph the scenes in such a way that the audience will intuitively follow the main action, similar to a live stage play. The ultimate goal of any project is to create a VR experience where you’re completely engaged and emotionally invested within the story.

Spatial audio cues play a large role in capturing and diverting attention to particular areas. For example, you may hear a sound behind you that prompts you to turn around. This is one way the director can control the viewer experience.

But what if the viewer is looking in the wrong place when the scene changes?

arnoldAdvancements in technology are happening daily. For example, certain platforms are supporting forced perspective whereby at certain points in the story, you re-orient the viewer to a particular part of a scene. Facebook now supports this and new aggregators are coming on board soon. This will help tremendously as some of the storytelling power will be given back to the director.

And VR lends itself to multiple viewing where the user can have a different experience each time.

Go in deep…

vr-dudeImmersion in a virtual reality experience is the perception that you, the participant, are physically there…wherever “there” may be. For us as virtual reality storytellers, the goal is to create such a high degree of immersion that users aren’t just caught up thinking, “This is a cool experience…” because they’re too busy participating in what’s happening around them. At peak immersion, audiences experience a real sense of presence – that feeling of actively participating rather than passively watching.

The ultimate potential of storytelling in VR is that we’ll be able to live out the stories that we could only previous read, listen to or watch. In virtual reality, you don’t have to imagine what it feels like — you feel it for yourself.  When you are a given person (or “with” them), rather than just watching them, you experience a greater degree of empathy. And that my friends is the power of VR.

Do you think this is the future of digital storytelling?

 

 

 

 

It’s never too late to make the leap…or take a punch

Ok, I’m going to take a break from talking about VR 360 video and step back to talk about the project that started it all for my company Those Canadians Media Group.

In the spring of 2013 at 52 years old, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I had a great job as senior producer and VP at one of eastern Canada’s largest and most successful production companies. I was comfortable, secure, had a nice car, a nice house , 5 weeks vacation a year, a great family and life was good.

I was about to make a decision that would turn my comfortable little world upside down.

Do you know me?

A good friend and colleague of mine, Don Young, had just come off a job as executive producer of features and documentaries for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and had an interesting proposition for me.

During the Olympics he fed our company tons of work. The content we produced was great stuff and made him look good. We delivered on time and on budget and set the bar high for other companies across the country who were also scrambling to produce Olympics features alongside us to feed the Olympics media beast.

Our “Do you know me?” fejohn-matures exploded onto the web creating a real buzz leading up to the games. These were conceived of and created by my colleague (and now business partner) Dave, who owned a motion graphics company called 27Forty.

They took on the challenge by hiring some of the best motion graphics designers in the country to produce the work. It was a massive undertaking with over 150 features pumped out the door in about 8 months. It was intense, creative work with crazy deadlines, and the rush was exhilarating.

http://thosecanadians.com/showcase.html#lg=1&slide=8

Then came a rear naked choke…

Fast forward to May 2013 and Don calls out of the blue and asks Dave and me how much we know about the UFC, and in particular their reality TV series called The Ultimate Fighter?

One of Don’s former colleagues from the Olympics was now marketing director for UFC Canada, had approached him looking for production companies to submit bids for  a Canadian version of the show called The Ultimate Fighter Nations – Canada vs Australia. Would we be interested in partnering with him to create a company to submit a bid?

Now a rational person might have asked who else was bidding (turns out Insight, who produces Amazing Race Canada, etc., etc. was the forerunner) or what our chances were, but something inside me told me to say yes. I needed a shakeup in my professional career, so I left my secure job and committed 100% to chasing this crazy opportunity.

What the hell was I thinking???

We had three weeks to prepare for our pitch and with our combined experience and instincts and a bit of luck, we did everything right. We scouted locations, learned the sport, studied the American show and put together an incredible team including the lead editor from the TV show, Survivor. Even though we’d never produced a reality television show before, our pitch deck was strong and UFC felt our drive, commitment and passion. A two-hour meeting turned into fours hours and subsequently UFC short-listed us.

Those Canadians in the USA

The next step was to go to UFC’s production facility in Las Vegas to shadow the producers and crew of the American show to make sure we were comfortable with the budget we’d submitted. It all happened so quickly and we didn’t even have a name for our company yet.

UFC was just starting to shoot season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter and for the first time, featured an all female cast with Ronda Rousey and ultimate-fighter-ronda-rousey-miesha-tateMeisha Tate being the coaches. As they began shooting the first scene, we stood against the back wall inside the control room watching the monitors between UFC president, Dana White and the president of Pilgrim Studios (the American producer of Ultimate Fighter, Monster Garage, Wicked tuna, Dirty Jobs, etc., etc., etc…), as the director called ‘action’.

Ronda came bursting out the doors onto the set, but a cameraman was in the shot and they had to start over. A big no, no…

Dana leaned out and said to the Pilgrim President – “See those Canadians right here? They’d never f**k up like that.” Without missing a beat, the Pilgrim pres. responded with “Do they even have f”n TV in Canada?”.

We laughed nervously, but the name stuck…

Needless to say we won the gig and went on to produce 25 x 1hr episodes for Fox Sports One, FX Australia, Rogers Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports and the series was touted by fans as being one of the best Ultimate Fighter series ever produced. The numbers more than doubled Fox Sports One audience projections and we were even nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards for the series.

tcmg-ufc-crewNext week I’ll talk about some of the crazy things that occurred on set with 16 fighters living in a house together and training and fighting each other over 7 weeks with absolutely no contact with the outside world…You won’t believe what happened…

http://thosecanadians.com/showcase.html#lg=1&slide=1

 

(Mike with the crew and fighters on set)

Are you considering making a drastic change in your career? It’s never too late and sometimes it just takes a little push. Would you take the leap if you had the opportunity?

 

About Mike Wetmore:

Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com

 

Can 360 video drive more engagements than regular video ads?

I think we can all agree that video is one of the most powerful tools for advertising on the web. It’s been proven that almost 60% of all senior business execs would rather watch a video than read text-based content and are more likely to engage with a company, product or service after watching. So we know video works as a marketing tool, but does 360 video work even better?

Facebook thinks so

Mark Zuckerberg believes it’s the future of watching videos. 360 video motivates viewers to watch and interact more with content. Studies show that 360 videos have a higher click-through rate than standard video and  360 ads drive more engagement through interactions.

zucker

360 vs. standard video

Columbia Sportswear recently conducted a side by side test with a regular and 360 ad. The narrative was identical for both pieces and the 360 ad outperformed through all metrics, including views, shares, and subscribes. The 360 ad produced 41% more earned actions than the standard one and it also drove more engagement with Columbia’s YouTube channel.

Experience travel and adventure in a whole new way

360 ads are novel and they’re interesting. 360 video takes the viewer from feeling passive, to one of curiosity and ultimately, engagement. As a result, people tend to share them more often.

A natural fit and some of best applications of 360 videos is within the tourism industry. Companies like G-Adventures, Intrepid and even Qantas Airlines are creating 360 experiences for both social media and headsets to give viewers immersive experiences. From riding on the back of an elephant to sitting in the cockpit of a 747, 360 video gives you a richer experience than conventional video and subsequently more qualified leads.

360-journeys

Red Bull also believes in 360 technology and is an early adopter.  Keeping with their strategy of featuring adventure sports to promote their brand, they’ve taken it one step further by allowing users to virtually try out wing suit skydiving, bull riding, motocross or driving a Formula 1 car. Having a full 360 experience from the perspective of the operator is beyond exhilarating. Put on a headset and the experience goes through the roof.

kyle-jordan

Will 360 video save the music industry?

Many artists are joining the 360 video trend as a way to boost their content reach and generate repetitive consumption.  Artists find it hard to make people listen to the same tune over and over, unless they’re diehard fans. Viewers will watch a 360 video several times, as each viewing can be from a different perspective. The more a song gets stuck in your head, the more likely it is you’ll buy it on iTunes or listen to it through streaming services.

Bands like U2, Muse, Bjork, Taylor Swift, Foals, Maroon 5 are all seeing the benefit of 360 video. Rap artist Moses Sumney has even taken it one step further and partnered with Honda to promote the 2016 Civic in his latest video.

u2

Music and branded content are a natural fit, and with more and more artists trying to find ways to monetize in this era of subscription-based streaming services and low royalties for artists, it makes sense.

There’s bound to be interesting times ahead as we try to figure out how else we can use 360 video experiences to drive marketing results.

What do you think? What is your experience with 360 videos? Are you considering using them in your content strategy? What other applications can you think of?

About Mike Wetmore:

Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com

 

 

VR 360 Video – Baptism by fire

In early 2015 we were looking for a way to grow our business and distinguish ourselves from our competitors. As content producers, the next logical step (for us) was to take a look at 360 video and get in and establish ourselves before the market became too saturated.

We bought a camera rig and took some intensive post productions seminars but before marketing ourselves as 360 video producers, we had to gain some experience. We spent weekends out shooting scenes locally and putting them together. We started to get the hang of it and built up a bit of confidence and experience. How tough could it be?

Then the phone rang and we landed a real job…oh, oh…

You look like a nerd with the headset on, but trust me – it’s worth it.

My business partner was Exec Producer of Features and Documentary for the 2010 and 2012 Olympic games. He worked with a lot of smart people within the consortium and almost all of them went off to become super-achievers in their subsequent careers beyond the games. One of his colleagues, the Exec VP of digital for the Olympics, went on to join the team at G Adventures as vice-president of global marketing.

G-Adventures had partnered with National Geographic to create a series of travel experiences aimed at a particular demographic and were looking for something outside the box to fire up their network of travel agents located across the world to help them sell one of their new tours called The Ganges River Experience. So they brought us along to capture photos and 360 video to promote the tour through their website and various social media outlets and international travel trade shows.

ganges

https://www.gadventures.com/travel-styles/cruising/river/ganges/

If you’ve ever been to a trade show where a company is showing content on the headsets, chances are the lineups are huge, as people are genuinely curious to try them out. It’s a great way to create a real buzz. You’ve got a captive audience and a real opportunity to wow them with something unique.

vr-on-the-trade-show-floor

As G-Adventures is a progressive, forward thinking company, they were keen to get an edge on their competition. So off we went to India to tell a brand story. What could possibly go wrong?

Seriously, is that a bomb?

When filming in 360°, you throw traditional storytelling techniques out the window. Shooting in 360° forced us to approach filmmaking in a new way, to ask ourselves what a story is at its core, and to question how to tell a story in this new medium. When looking for scenes to capture to tell the story visually, you need to look for interesting foreground, medium shots and background. And all in one shot.

The problem is that to capture 360 video we use a rig that actually looks like a bomb. When we fire up the cameras, we activate each of the GoPros with a “beep, beep” then 6 blinking red lights indicate the cameras are rolling. We place the camera in the spot we want to shoot and then we go and hide so we’re not in the shot.

vr-or-bomb

Anyone who is watching us work, (and in India there are 1.26 billion people so there’s always somebody around) wonders first of all – who are these guys and what the hell are are they doing? They put this blinking, beeping thing that looks like a bomb in the middle of a crowded area then they go and hide…Help! Police!

I don’t know how many times I had to show people that it’s a camera. I’d tell let them that if I were to set off a bomb I’d hide a lot further away. That seemed to reassure most folks.

In the end we captured some amazing footage and didn’t get arrested.

The number of hits from the first 360 video they posted on Facebook way surpassed their most popular videos. Audience retention was longer and the comments on the video solidified that people are looking for something new to keep their attention and 360 video might just be it!

Let me know if you think 360 video is the future or simply a fad.

Here is a link to the first in a series of VR 360 documentaries we’re producing.

https://littlstar.com/videos/c933fdcf

360-journeys

About Mike Wetmore:

Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com

 

VR 360 Video – Will this work for marketers?

man-using-vr-headset-1

VR 360 Video – Is it a gimmick?

I’ve been producing video content for over 25 years now and I have to admit, when Oculus first introduced the DK1 headset a few years ago I was skeptical as to how effective this new VR 360 platform could be from a storytelling perspective. After all, isn’t it typically a director’s job to tell the story and manage the pacing and shot selection maximizing the impact of each scene?  This is the way visual storytelling has worked since the very first moving picture was released, right? So how would it work then, if the viewer puts on a headset and decides for themselves where to look? How can you tell a story when the audience chooses what they want to see at any given time within a scene? Hmmm….I was about to find out.

It’s as close as it gets to actually being there.

My first experience watching 360 content was SNL’s 40th Anniversary show hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. I eagerly strapped on the headset, plugged in the headphones and pressed play.

What came next changed the way I’ll think of video content forever.

I really wasn’t prepared for just how immersive the experience would be. From being able to watch the guy holding the cue cards below me (the VR camera was positioned over the main host camera) to Keith Richards slouched in his chair like a moving cadaver behind me, to Larry David heckling Seinfeld from the audience – there was so much going on all at once. It really felt like I was there, but invisible. Like I’d crashed the party, but no one could see me. It was exhilarating.

To my right was the stage the guest bands play on. To my left, the celebrity-studded audience. Down below was the floor director and tech crew. Look up and there’s Jerry delivering his monologue. Very, very cool. And I couldn’t help myself – I just kept going back to steal glances at Keith Richards…

I must have watched the monologue six or seven times and each time was a different experience. I began to understand the power of this new technology and the control it gives to the viewer. I was hooked.

Early days, but have faith.

VR content in a headset, whether it be the Samsung Gear VR, or the HTC Vive, the Oculus, or even Google Cardboard, is a completely immersive experience that is hard to explain. You have to try it for yourself. Technology is moving quickly and content producers are discovering different ways of telling stories through this new medium. As a director, there’s lot’s of trial and error, trusting your instincts and flying by the seat of your pants.  VR 360 is pretty good now and soon it’s going to be great. Then it’s going to get even better. And it’s happening fast.

So does it work for brands?

Remember when I said I watched the SNL 40 video six or seven times? Well, I’m not alone in this. Studies show that an audience engages nearly four times longer with VR 360 video than a regular video. That’s good news for brands using this technology. And there are lots of them. From the NFL and NBA, Mercedes and Audi, U2 and Maroon 5,  The North Face and Columbia Sportswear to Jose Cuervo tequila, brands are creating experiences that leave lasting impressions and are positioning themselves as forward-thinking, cutting-edge companies.

Facebook recently bought Oculus, and now supports 360 video. They’re diving in deep and even coming out with their own camera system. This is not going away folks. But even if you don’t have a headset there are other ways to watch it. VR 360 works well on your desktop, using your mouse or trackpad to control video movement and it works really well on mobile too.

All you early adopters out there are probably already watching this stuff and the rest of world will be joining you shortly. You can find lots of great VR 360 content through a variety of channels like Facebook, Youtube 360, Vimeo 360, Littlstar, VRSE and many others.

VR 360 video is no longer a thing of the future. It’s happening right now. And if you think your competitors are already developing VR 360 experiences for their next campaigns you’re probably right.

 

Next time I’ll write about my own experiences creating VR 360 video in India for G-Adventures and National Geographic.

About Mike Wetmore:

Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com