By Evan DeSimone
Alex Rosenfeld, CEO of Vrideo, has a simple mission. He wants to bring virtual reality to the masses. That’s why he and his partners built Vrideo, one of the first platforms dedicated to distributing hardware agnostic virtual reality and immersive 360-degree video content. To further that cause, Vrideo has teamed teaming up with Kaleidoscope VR to host a first-of-its-kind touring virtual reality film festival. We talked to Rosenfeld about the festival, the future of virtual content, and what virtual creatives should be thinking about as VR makes the leap from niche technology to mainstream storytelling medium.
Why was Vrideo drawn to the idea of sponsoring a virtual reality film festival?
This is something my co-founder and I have wanted to do since before even starting Vrideo. René Pinnell from Kaleidoscope had been independently developing a very similar vision for what a VR festival and tour might look like, so connecting and ultimately partnering with him was the final piece of inspiration for us to pursue this. I think with a new medium like immersive video and virtual reality, it’s incredibly important to bring together the pioneering content creators experimenting with what’s possible within this new cinematic language. In part, we want to showcase the excellent work that folks are already producing, but we also want to encourage dialogue within this community. There are a lot of important lessons being learned right now that are worth sharing and that will influence the direction this medium takes going forward.
What trends should creatives working in virtual formats be paying attention to?
I think immersive video producers have a unique advantage over a lot of other VR content creators, in that the content they’re producing can be experienced not only on VR headsets but on mobile phones and computers, as well, which is a big part of our offering with Vrideo. While immersive video is certainly most fully enjoyed in VR, web and mobile 360-degree experiences can be quite compelling, too, and are much more accessible. So I think it’s important for creatives to keep in mind that, even though they might be creating their content to be experienced on VR, a lot of consumers will first experience their content in non-VR contexts.
Outside of the gaming space, what do you see as the biggest growth areas for immersive content in the next few years?
In 2013, when I started digging into the potential for VR to drive the next big evolution in video, a far majority of the discussion around VR was centered on gaming. That’s changed significantly since then to the point where I’ll now attend VR conferences and observe more immersive video related exhibitors than gaming exhibitors. Don’t get me wrong, gaming is going to be a big and likely the biggest driver of the early adoption of VR headsets, but I think it’s become clear that immersive video will be right there alongside it.
There’s a sense that virtual reality has been with us for a long time, but also that we’re on the verge of a real breakthrough in consumer access to VR content. What makes this a breakthrough moment for the medium?
There are a lot of factors, but the biggest is the mobile phone revolution, which has dramatically decreased the price and increased the power of components, such as screens and sensors, that are key to VR hardware. As a result, companies like Oculus, Sony, HTC and Samsung are able to bring to market high-powered headsets at a fraction of the cost that they would have cost just a few years ago. The exciting thing is that this trend will only continue, perhaps even more so because of VR. So as compelling as these headsets are now, it’s almost scary to imagine how good they are going to be in another couple years.
What kind of immersive experiences will be most pivotal as VR becomes more mainstream?
I think VR has already cleared the first hurdle, proving that the hardware is ready for primetime, and is clearing the second hurdle, proving that folks are capable of creating experiences and stories that wow people in a way not possible with any other medium, as evidenced by the films that we’re showcasing on the Kaleidoscope Tour. The final hurdle is proving that we can create a steady stream of experiences that bring people back again and again. That’s a big part of our hope with Vrideo, to build an immersive video platform that offers a steady stream of compelling content, to the point where the VR headset is the first thing folks reach for when they get home from work or school.