Brazil’s VR Narrative ‘The Line’ Wins Primetime Emmy For Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming

In a first for a Brazilian company, ARVORE Immersive Experiences (ARVORE) won a Primetime Emmy Award  for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming for its virtual reality (VR) love story, “The Line.” The series claims to be the first VR narrative experience for Facebook’s Oculus Quest hand tracking feature.

“To receive this recognition, particularly in an innovation category, is truly an incredible achievement for us, which validates our dedication and our vision for the future of immersive technologies as a storytelling medium,” Ricardo Justus, CEO of ARVORE, said in a statement.

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Set within a scale model of 1940s São Paulo and narrated by Rodrigo Santoro (HBO’s “Westworld”), “The Line” is an interactive story about love and the fear of change, transforming players into a child who unlocks an enchanted maquette of two miniature dolls, Pedro and Rosa. This room-scale experience invites players to pull on knobs, and crawl under the scale model engine, to unfold the story of these figurines who are perfect for each other, but reluctant to live out their love.

“One of the most beautiful side effects of VR is bringing the body back to the center of the experience,” said series director Ricardo Laganaro. “We use the body movement as a language device to create emotions inside of the story. When we use our whole body to not only interact with but also tell and listen to stories, we remember that we are human.”

The show’s creators says VR is key to developing the storyline that could not be replicated on standard video or film. Specifically, the VR user is responsible for the development of the story by engaging in a series of interactions that are triggers to unravel the narrative. Justus and Santoro say “The Line” is first narrative with full-hand tracking interaction, where the user can touch the story with their hands with his/her bare hands — at both a God-Like perspective of the scale-mode, and then at the scale of the dolls.

“We believe that we have entered a new phase in the VR market, and now the users are becoming more and more mainstream,” they said.  “However, for first-time VR users the library of content is still very scarce so ‘The Line’ is a fantastic gateway into VR that in just under 20 minutes demonstrates the best attributes of the technology.

The Emmy adds to a list of awards “The Line” has received, including Best VR Experience at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, Best VR Immersive Award at the 2019 Kaohsiung Film Festival and more. The Emmy will be presented to the team on September 17.

“The Line” is available globally on Oculus for $4.99.

HBO Max Bows VR Events for New ‘Lovecraft Country’ Series

To promote new original series “Lovecraft Country,” HBO Sept. 1 announced it is launching a series of virtual reality (VR) companion events, dubbed “Lovecraft Country: Sanctum.” The promotions transporting fans into a virtual world inspired by the show. The series, which launched Aug. 16, airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.

“Lovecraft Country” is a horror drama television series set in 1950s Jim Crow America developed by Misha Green based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. It stars Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors, among others, and is executive produced by J.J Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, “Westworld”) and Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us).

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The VR events, which begin Sept. 3, will enable selected users to experience three events consisting of immersive theater, escape rooms, art installations, puzzles and a live concert, via the Oculus Quest headset, all inspired by the series. The events will be simultaneously run on the social platform VRChat, which allows participants to talk and interact with each other in real time within the environment, and streamed via YouTube Live.

“We were very inspired by the deeply layered and dynamic world Misha Green has brought to life in [the series] and wanted to create a digital experience for fans that is just as innovative,” Dana Flax, VP of program marketing at HBO, said in a statement.

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Flax said much of the TV show is rooted in the idea of travel as a catalyst for self-discovery. And the VR experience provides a way for fans of the show to come together virtually and safely in a unique new place and experience incredible performances that further explore themes and ideas from the show.

“These virtual events also give us the special opportunity of spotlighting the work of black artists in celebration of this very important series,” Flax said.

VR participants will experience voiceover performances by series’ Majors, Courtney B. Vance and Michael Kenneth Williams; afrofuturist art installations by David Alabo, Devan Shimoyama and Adeyemi Adegbesan; a theatrical performance inspired by the words of James Baldwin, adapted by series writer Shannon Houston, and performed by Jurnee Smollett; and an exclusive VR concert given by a soon to be announced artist.

Sanctum was developed in partnership with HBO by creative production partner and experience studio The Mill, whose team of artists, coders and strategists developed the experience during global lockdown, in close collaboration with HBO’s marketing team.

“We created Sanctum as a space to expand the possibilities of what the future of theatre, games, art installations, concerts, and live events can be, said Rama Allen, executive creative director at The Mill and lead creative on the Sanctum experience.

Allen said the promotion seeks to create a space in partnership with black artists and voices that centers on the black experience.

“We chose social VR because it is the most transportive medium to lift us from the isolation of quarantine, to coexist in a rarefied location,” he said. “This technology can erase geography to bring us together.”

Paramount Cuts VR Movie Deal With Bigscreen

Paramount Pictures and Bigscreen Inc. Dec. 16 announced a multiyear agreement to distribute classic 2D and 3D films in 10 countries worldwide through the San Francisco startup’s social VR movie-watching platform.

“Bigscreen’s virtual reality platform offers a new way for fans to experience films in their homes,” said Bob Buchi, president of worldwide entertainment for Paramount Pictures. “We’re excited to be a part of this experiment using cutting-edge technology to give fans a new entertainment option.”

Bigscreen’s virtual world, entered through headsets, allows users to customize personal avatars, hang out in a virtual lobby, and voice chat with other movie fans. Movies are streamed on screens inside virtual cinemas, providing a social movie watching experience.

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Four new movies will premiere in Bigscreen every week. Movies run for one week with a new lineup of movies available the following week. Films are broadcast live on a pay-per-view basis with scheduled showtimes every 30 minutes. December’s lineup includes blockbuster hits like Interstellar and Star Trek. For the full list of upcoming screenings and showtimes, visit bigscreenvr.com/cinema/comingsoon.

“We are excited to enable fans around the world to hangout, chat, and watch films together in our virtual movie theater,” said Darshan Shankar, CEO and founder of Bigscreen.

Bigscreen’s virtual screenings will be available in 10 countries: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Japan.

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In addition to 2D screenings, Bigscreen will also broadcast select movies in 3D. Bigscreen’s rendering technology uses VR to create a 3D picture in each eye, producing a level of depth and detail that is not possible with traditional 3D glasses.

Bigscreen can be downloaded for free from bigscreenvr.com and runs on the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive, Valve Index, all SteamVR headsets, and all Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

Tickets can be purchased through Bigscreen’s website at bigscreenvr.com/cinema

Former Fox Exec Hanno Basse Joins Live Planet

Live Planet, creator of systems for virtual reality and blockchain tracking of entertainment content, has appointed Hanno Basse, former chief technology officer at 20th Century Fox Film Corp., president of its Decentralized Media Solutions division.

“Basse brings Live Planet his extensive expertise in driving the adoption of emerging technologies to catalyze new media experiences and services, expanding the company’s innovations in immersive and linear video production, distribution and monetization,” according to a Live Planet press release.

Basse will expand the company’s global footprint, building on its end-to-end virtual reality video streaming and publishing solution and its blockchain-based video infrastructure platform, the VideoCoin Network.

He will be based in Los Angeles, reporting to Live Planet founder and CEO Halsey Minor.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to mark the next stage of growth for Live Planet with the addition of Hanno to our world-class team of media and technology experts. Hanno brings a truly unique level of senior experience to Live Planet that will be extremely valuable to us as we help our customers meet the increasing demands of streaming video and next-generation on-demand services,” said Minor in a statement. “The addition of a technology pioneer of Hanno’s caliber is emblematic of Live Planet’s strategic direction and I look forward to an incredibly exciting journey ahead.”

“The media processing and distribution technologies Halsey and his team have built are among the most groundbreaking I’ve seen. They provide the basis for a new generation of solutions that media, telco and corporations will eagerly embrace as our world moves toward increased decentralization, higher-speed communication and edge-based compute,” said Basse in a statement. “I cannot wait to show the world what we will deliver next.”

Basse was appointed chief technology officer at 20th Century Fox Film Corp. in 2012, At Fox, Basse was responsible for technology strategy for the film studio, covering production/post-production, theatrical distribution and home entertainment. He created partnerships with Samsung, Ericsson and Barco, among others, which led to the founding of the Fox Innovation Lab. While at Fox, he also served as the first chairman of the UHD Alliance where he helped launch the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc format and, in partnership with Samsung, established High Dynamic Range technology as a consumer product. He also served as the Fox board member of Movielabs.

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Prior to joining 20th Century Fox, Basse was with DirecTV, where he served as SVP of broadcast systems engineering. In that role, he was responsible for the design and implementation of DirecTV’s broadcast infrastructure and served as the technical lead for the introduction of many technologies to DirecTV’s platform, including HD, 3D and on-demand services.

Basse studied radio communications technology at the Engineering College of the Soviet Air Defense Forces in Kiev, Ukraine, and received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Officer’s College of the Air Force in Kamenz, Germany.

The Live Planet VR System is an end-to-end solution for easily creating and delivering live and recorded picture-perfect stereoscopic VR video programming and applications, according to the company.

The VideoCoin Network provides video infrastructure for the blockchain-enabled internet, delivering decentralized video encoding, storage and content distribution.

Parks: Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets Remain Niche Video Game Product

Virtual reality (VR) has often been suggested as home entertainment’s future technology. New research from Parks Associates, however, finds that the video game industry remains the primary use case for VR headsets.

Parks found that while 25% of domestic broadband households are familiar with VR technology, just 8% of households use it. Among consumers who own or are familiar with VR, 54% use their headset or would use it for gaming.

“Sixty-two percent of U.S. broadband households play video games, and while gamers are a passionate market segment, they can be limited in scope, which has stalled adoption of VR to a wider audience,” analyst Billy Nayden said in a statement. “There has been some notable video content developed for VR, such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s short video experience Carne y Arena, which won an Oscar, but overall lack of quality, non-gaming content is inhibiting broader adoption.”

Parks Associates: Expected Virtual Reality Use Cases

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parks said 15% of domestic broadband households have tried VR, while 52% of headset owners report owning a smartphone-based system. PC-based systems and game console-based systems are the next most popular systems, with effectively the same adoption rate.

Another 28% of game console owners are familiar with VR headsets, and familiarity is even higher among owners of newer consoles.

Content quality remains a challenge for VR headset owners, with 55% of VR headset owners feeling that content for their device has remained the same since they bought their headset and 3% believe it has gotten worse. The report notes the main barriers for VR content development are costs, the demand for interactivity, and limits on content length.

Mobile headsets are capable of playing most non-gaming content in VR but often cannot play premium games and have much lower NPS scores than other headset types. For gamers, PC-based and game console-based systems are the primary VR headset option, though standalone VR headsets are promoted as a cost saver.

“The aim of standalone VR headsets is to offer much of the same premium content as game console or PC-based headsets, without the need for additional hardware like a gaming console or high-powered PC,” Nayden said. “This technology drastically reduces the cost for consumers, while providing a more premium experience than smartphone-based systems.”

 

SyFy, NBC Universal Bowing ‘Eleven Eleven’ VR Project at SXSW Festival

SyFy channel along with NBC Universal March 5 announced they will bow the “Eleven Eleven” virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) series later this month at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas.

Produced in collaboration with VFX studio Digital Domain, “Eleven Eleven” will be available for both tethered and mobile VR headsets and related AR devices.

“With Eleven Eleven, we are pioneering an innovative scripted format for science fiction content that blends the best of theatre, gaming and cinema to create unique VR and AR experiences,” Steve Patscheck, EVP global programming at NBC Universal International Networks, said in a statement. “By creating an original piece of IP, Syfy was able to design specifically for VR and AR, all the while exploring how immersive technologies could heighten the thrill of storytelling.”

Sky will distribute the series through European regions (Germany, Italy, Spain) via Sky VR Studios.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Syfy and NBC Universal International Networks on Eleven Eleven,” said Neil Graham, executive producer for Sky VR Studios. “It is a truly innovative VR experience and a brilliant step forward in our growing range of VR content.”

 

AT&T’s John Donovan to Deliver Keynote on 5G Opportunities at CES

AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan will lead a keynote session titled “New Frontiers in Mobile” at CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association announced.

Donovan will join MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan to discuss opportunities for 5G, the next generation technology for mobile.

Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2019 takes place Jan. 8-11 in Las Vegas. The keynote will begin at 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Park Theater, MGM Park.

Presented by MediaLink, the keynote will explore how 5G will open up opportunities for robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, sporting experiences and public safety, among other industries. After Donovan’s talk, a panel of industry executives will discuss how global companies are developing marketing strategies to best engage consumers in this mobile, data-driven world. Confirmed keynote panelists include National Geographic CMO Jill Cress, Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, Magic Leap CPO Omar Khan, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, The Stagwell Group president and managing partner Mark Penn, and Ascential Events president and Cannes Lions chairman Phil Thomas.

“AT&T is a leader in the next-generation of connected mobility that will impact every aspect of our lives, and 5G is the platform that will enable that transformation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA, in a statement. “We are excited to have John Donovan and Michael Kassan lead this powerful CES keynote that will delve into the new world of 5G innovation and the next wave of connectivity.”

Donovan is responsible for the bulk of AT&T’s global telecommunications and U.S. video services businesses, including its Business, Mobility and Entertainment, and Technology & Operations groups, according to a CTA press release. Previously, Donovan served as chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations, where he led strategic planning for the company overall.

Kassan founded MediaLink in 2003, a strategic advisory firm serving companies at the intersection of media, marketing, advertising, technology, entertainment and finance.

Sling TV Launches on Oculus Go

Sling TV Dec. 17 became the first virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) to launch on the wireless virtual reality headset Oculus Go.

The Sling TV experience on Oculus Go is equivalent to watching on a 180-inch television, according to a SlingTV press release.

For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new Oculus Go will receive an $80 credit toward Sling TV subscription services (for more info, visit sling.com/oculus).

“No big screen, no room, no problem,” said Jimshade Chaudhari, VP, product management, Sling TV. “Sling TV on Oculus Go gives customers an incredibly large screen, high-resolution experience anywhere they get a WiFi connection, without the need to connect to a phone or PC. Oculus Go is a real game-changer in giving people a personal home theater experience wherever they are, with its crystal-clear optics and portable design.”

Oculus Go users can access Sling TV in the Oculus app store.

Sling TV subscriptions start at $25 per month.

Oculus Go joins more than 17 platforms supported by Sling, including smart televisions, tablets, game consoles, computers, smartphones and streaming devices.

Oculus Go features a fast-switch LCD display that renders at a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and the headphone-free, built-in speakers deliver a 3-D, spatial audio experience, according to the release.

World of ‘Hotel Transylvania’ Expands With VR Book

Hotel Transylvania 3, the first Sony Pictures title to feature Quantum Storey VR Studio AR and VR content in its bundled movie release, will be the basis for the first standalone VR print book based on a major motion picture.

The standalone VR book expands upon the VR activity booklet sold with the title’s Blu-ray combo pack at Walmart. The project is a collaboration between Sony Pictures Consumer Products and the Quantum Storey Company, which uses patented technology to blend traditional publishing with augmented and virtual reality.

Readers will find themselves completely immersed in a 360-degree re-creation of the world of the film, allowing them to create a deeper connection to the characters.

“After seeing our customers enjoy Quantum Storey’s Hotel Transylvania 3 activity booklet that was launched last month, we are thrilled that they are bringing Drac, Mavis and the crew to life in a new and exciting way through this standalone VR Book,” said Jamie Stevens, EVP of worldwide consumer products for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Hotel Transylvania 3: Virtual Vacation VR book is now available at Walmart.com and Walmart stores in the book section, and includes VR goggles.

DEG Presents Hedy Lamarr Awards to VR Pioneer, Carnegie Mellon Student

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presented its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña, a leader in virtual reality, in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1. The award recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leader in Entertainment Technology to Carnegie Mellon University student Cassidy Pearsall, who will receive a financial award to continue her education.

“Thank you for thinking about women and technology,” de la Peña said in accepting the award. “The numbers are appalling. In 2017, 98% of venture funds went to men. In 2016, in 2015, the same — it’s brutal. To celebrate women’s contribution to technology helps change their story to venture capitalists. They always say they invest in founders of the company. Putting women out there like this and talking about Hedy Lamarr and putting people like me and Cassidy out there, you start to change that story, you start to change what they expect a founder to look like, so it’s really important what you’re doing here. This work is important, and I really appreciate that I’ve been able to be a representative of that ongoing attempt to show the world how much we can contribute.”

DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith said the awards were created “to celebrate the memory of Hedy Lamarr,” who was both a Hollywood actress and an inventor.

“Louis B. Mayer famously was one of the first people to call her the most beautiful woman in the world and of course many people followed thereafter, but Hedy wasn’t just a beautiful, talented film star,” Smith noted. “She came up with a way of actually making sure torpedoes would hit their destinations during World War II. This highly secure technology, radio frequency hopping, is the foundation on which technologies such as wi-fi, bluetooth and cellular technologies, technologies that we use every single day, are based.”

After reminiscing about finding his mother’s patent as they went through boxes of magazine covers and photographs in the attic, Lamarr’s son Anthony Loder congratulated the 2018 winners.

“Cassidy, my mother would be very proud of you,” he said to Pearsall. “She’d be a fan, and she’d be impressed.”

“To be compared to someone as talented and as driven as Hedy is really an incredible honor,” Pearsall said in accepting her award.

De la Peña was named “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by The Guardian and Engadget, while Fast Company recognized her as one of the people who made the world more creative for her groundbreaking work in immersive journalism. A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine, de la Peña founded Emblematic Group in 2007. The company became an innovator in walk around virtual reality with the first-ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Emblematic has also produced Project Syria, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum, Use of ForceOne Dark NightOut of ExileAfter Solitary and Greenland Melting.

Pearsall is a student in Carnegie Mellon’s Theatrical Video and Media Design program, and a recipient of the university’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. She is training as a theatrical designer and technician in scenic design and construction and lighting design and programming.

Deluxe Entertainment Services Group hosted the reception and Sony, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Corp. of America, was a presenting sponsor.

See photos from the event here.