Emma Mankey Hidem

Sunnyside VR

About Emma Mankey Hidem

Documentary filmmaker who quit her job and launched her own 360 video production company at SXSW. Passionate about storytelling, music, travel and educational video.

Emma Mankey Hidem

Emma Mankey Hidem

What is your company’s expertise?

– 360° video – because that’s what we have the most experience with and honestly what we enjoy doing the most.  We also have experience with interactive content, but it is usually anchored in a video experience or the interactivity is related to the video experience. I’ve shot and stitched close to 100 VR videos, so video is my strongest aspect.

Why did you decide to get into 360 video?

– I worked for a company that made media for museums and produced video and interactive installations for them, including some early VR-type stuff. I learned how to shoot 360° video and stitch it for a project there, and I was hooked. I had so much fun doing it and people reacted to the final product with such enthusiasm that I knew that was something I wanted to pursue and that it would eventually be a solid business to create. But that was back in 2013/2014 and the technology wasn’t where it needed to be for me to feel like I would be successful yet. Finally, in March 2015, I launched my business at SXSW and took the leap of leaving my full-time video production job with benefits to pursue VR video.

How would you describe your company culture?

– Right now there isn’t really a company culture because we are such a small company. Everyone works remotely and is freelance because the needs from project to project are so different. In the future, as we grow, we hope to be able to hire employees and have an office and all that. And having worked at some fairly abusive places in the past, I definitely want to foster a company culture in which employees are valued and treated well. Happy employees make a stronger company, which adds up to more profits in the end, even if the upfront costs are a little higher.

What can I as a customer expect when working with you?

– Every VR project is different and has different needs, and I do both straight video and interactive content, so I work closely with our clients to figure out what the scope and budget of the project should be, based on what they want to achieve and what they can afford. It varies from client to client but on some projects I am the creative lead and on others the client already has a very specific vision in mind. If they have a very specific vision in mind, I still help guide them as to what works well within VR’s current limitations, and then I pull together a team to execute their vision, sending them various drafts for review along the way. If they aren’t exactly sure what they want, there’s a lot more back and forth about what their goals are and what is the best product to achieve that. But we work very closely with our clients on any kind of project and incorporate their input at several stages of the process. I always strive to give the client exactly what they want but I’m also the voice of reason with a lot of knowledge about VR to reign them back in if their vision won’t work for VR. For video shoots, I will say, that part of what sets me apart is I’m aggressive about getting great content. Clients often hesitate to let me be in the middle of the action for various reasons but I push them hard to let me get the best shots possible that will create the best end-user experience.

Can your company handle campaign volume production?

– We are a small company so there is a limit to the volume of our production right now. But we want to grow and so the volume we can handle should keep expanding. To be honest I’m not exactly sure what would qualify as “campaign volume” – if we were to do a VR marketing campaign, we could definitely handle that, and have done so. We are working on a few projects for well-known clients that are quite large and we are always working on multiple projects at once.  I have a wide network of freelancers I can call upon based on project needs so I’ve never had to turn down work.

What area, geographically speaking, are you available to work in? Where will travel expenses be required?

– I am happy and available to work in any and all geographical areas. I’m based out of Washington, DC, so travel expenses outside of the metro area would be required. However, I do high quality work and am competitively priced enough that I can make it worthwhile still for clients not in the DC area. Most of the projects I’ve done have required travel – I’ve shot VR video in 13 states (and DC), and would love to shoot VR all over the world.

Do you offer any type of satisfaction guarantee?

– I want all of my clients to be happy so that they return. So while I don’t have one listed on my website or anything, I will always do everything within my power to make sure my clients are not only satisfied but happy.

Do you offer revisions of completed work?

– Yes, but it would cost an additional fee in most cases if it’s outside the original scope of completed work. Of course there are rounds of revisions included in every project, but if, say, a client came back to me a year after the project was finished and wanted revisions because of updated information, there would be an additional cost, unless the revisions were quite small and simple.

I own a bike factory and want to promote our latest BMX model. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me?

– If the sky is the limit money-wise, I would recommend a robust app for all platforms where you can not only play a VR game where you ride a BMX bike and do stunts, but where there are extras, particularly video such as: a first-person 360° view of an extreme rider doing crazy stunts, a view in the bike ramp court with bikers riding all around you doing crazy stunts. Maybe even 360° video of the factory so enthusiasts can see how the bikes are made.

I own an insurance company and we would like to promote our life insurance. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me?

– I would recommend a video-based VR PSA where users are put through several life-altering or potentially fatal incidents and then shown how having life insurance improves their lives if they’re injured and unable to work or how it benefits their loved ones should they not survive. The immersive near death experiences would be very emotionally impactful.

I own a sushi restaurant. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me?

– Freshness is imperative for sushi, and the locavore movement is huge right now, so perhaps a mini-documentary in VR about the food’s path from water to table. You would be under water with the fish in their native habitat, on the fishing boat and in the kitchen watching it be prepared. If you had room for a booth or something in the restaurant, we could add wind for when we’re on the fishing boat, mist, and potentially even smell effects to make the experience more realistic. You could also add interactive content where users learn about the various fish and their native habitats. If the restaurant is doing any ocean preservation charity work, you could also include that in the content, either as video or interactive content.

What can you do for a small company with limited financial resouces?

– I’m currently working with a very small non-profit doing a simple interactve VR app for GearVR and it is very affordable to them. I honestly can’t go into more detail than that for client privacy reasons but because I am such a small company and have very little overhead, I am able to work with companies with smaller budgets.

I’ve been living in a cave the last few years and just got back to work at the marketing department, can you explain to me why I should invest in a VR marketing campaign?

– Practically everyone who experiences VR for the first time thinks it’s amazing. If your company creates a VR experience early, it will be a novel and memorable experience for people. Even later when VR has taken off more, you can create really cool experiences and they will be like commercials that no one wants to skip. Plus you can do things to make money off of it like sell branded Google Cardboard. Or give it away and then that is an extra promotional piece, because people will be excited to share VR with others and will be using your branded Google Cardboard to do so. It’s especially great if you’re the kind of company that does trade shows – everyone will want to come to your booth to try the VR.

What sort of VR marketing do you think we will see in the future?

– The technology will only get better. I think at first it will be mostly video or interactive/gaming type marketing experiences, but as the technology improves, you will see more full-body experiences, with wind, scents or touch. Some bigger companies are already doing this at major events but obviously it’s a lot of work right now – you have to set up whole booths in order to have anything besides the video and audio experiences. People are just beginning to experiment with VR so more and more innovative things will continue to happen as the medium progresses.

What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?

– The technology is still very limiting and there are a lot of things that either don’t make a good VR experience or can even make a bad VR experience. People get nauseous or dizzy sometimes when there is movement. And another pitfall is choosing an experience where everything is only happening in one spot – then it might as well be a traditional video. Not many people are thinking outside the box yet and are making VR experiences that are really not much different from regular screen content.

How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there?

– Adoption of the technology is the biggest factor in getting VR marketing to be bigger – as more people are spending more time in VR headsets, there will be a need for ads and that will be a great way for marketers to reach their audience and really keep them engaged. As opposed to traditional commercials which people skip or walk away during. Even if the technology didn’t take off, which it will, there would still be great opportunities for niche marketers who are looking to get to early adopters, tech lovers, and gamers.

How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?

– A successful VR marketing experience has people talking about it, wanting to do it again, and sharing it with their friends.

What is it about VR that gets you excited?

– VR is a whole new medium – it’s so rare in a lifetime for a new way of experiencing content to come out. And I’m not talking about DVD vs streaming – I’m talking photos vs movies. This is as big a change as the first motion picture. And it’s a medium that is truly immersive – the closest a person can come to being in two places at once. People can experience things they would never otherwise experience with VR. That’s an amazing thing.

STUDIO: Sunnyside VR

By | March 10, 2018