ABOUT: Sol Rogers is the CEO and Founder of REWIND, a production agency that fuses bleeding-edge technology with award winning creative storytelling to create memorable immersive experiences. REWIND combines its deep-rooted heritage in VFX and CGI production with an industry defining approach to VR, AR, MR and experiential marketing. Sol Rogers is also a BAFTA VR Advisory Group Executive, Chair of Immerse UK and an advisor to globally recognised conferences. His passion for VR has led him to set up VRLO, the UK’s most popular VR meetup, and VR Together, a platform to help create VR for good. Prior to founding REWIND, Sol was a university lecturer in Digital Animation, VFX & Emerging Technology for 15 years.
How did you get into VR?
– REWIND started life as a visual effects/post production house back in 2011. After getting our hands on the original Oculus DK1 (developer kit) we realised how much potential the medium had and we immediately started working on VR experiences to demonstrate the power of the technology. We created a VR experience for Red Bull Air Race to allow users to sit directly in
the pilot’s chair and experience the blistering pace of an Air Racer. It was so successful that it’s still being used today!
What is it like working with you guys?
– We want to be proud of every single piece of work that leaves the building so careful planning is key and our attention to detail is rigorous. As we work at the bleeding edge of tech we’re mindful that extra time may need to be spent in getting the client comfortable with the possibilities but also the limitations – we don’t have a magic wand, yet! We’re known for our innovation and tackling briefs that others may shy away from. But no matter how challenging, we always get the job done. Our clients keep coming back for more so we must be doing something right!
How would you describe your company culture?
– We’re a happy tribe of creative technologists, digital artists and producers. I think our shared interests (we are all pretty geeky!) help glue the team together, many hangout outside of work. We’re in a rapid stage of growth as a company – with lots of new hires and a new office – and I want to ensure that we hold onto our culture as we go through this period. We’re a tight team, but as we grow I’m mindful that we could lose our essence. I’ll be learning some new skills to make sure I can continue to run a happy and successful ship.
Tell us about something you’ve done that you are extra proud of!
– I’m incredibly proud of Home: A VR Spacewalk , a project we produced for the BBC. It’s won numerous prestigious awards, including a Silver Lion at Cannes, the Future of Storytelling award and a Webby. It’s been described as “one of the most hypnotising things you can see in VR”. Our VR launch for the new Jaguar I-PACE was another career high. We brought together 66 individuals located across two continents to share a front row seat for the virtual unveiling. This demonstrated a product that wasn’t available yet to the public in a truly unique and memorable way. The launch at the LA Motor Show pushed the boundaries further than ever before, with the inclusion of social interaction and a live presenter broadcast into a single VR world. It was the world’s first global, social, simultaneous, multi-headset VR experience. The event redefined the traditional product launch and resulted in phenomenal media coverage. REWIND has produced some incredible immersive content so far this year, we’ve really forged a reputation for delivering above and beyond.
What is your company’s core expertise?
– REWIND’s core expertise lies in creating immersive experiences for the world’s largest brands, networks and studios. We thrive on developing tent-pole projects that create talkability and raise the profile of the company we are working with, and in turn, increase interest in VR. We are ambitious and the projects we work on reflect this.
We have a post-house background and consist entirely of creative professionals who have years of experience working with CGI production and visual effects for TV, film and games. We have merged our deep-rooted heritage in digital design, visual effects and CGI production with new immersive technologies including 360 degree video, interactive VR, AR and MR. Technology plays a huge role in what we do. However, we are very nimble and can quickly adapt to changes, and there are constant tech changes at the moment!
One of our biggest strengths is our solid foundation as a VFX company, so whilst VR, AR and MR is a focus at the moment, we always have our eye on what is coming next.
Can you give some examples of what you can do for a small company with limited resouces?
– We always ask clients to involve us as early as possible so we can help shape the creative. Our knowledge and understanding of tech and the processes involved allows us to advise on what is and isn’t possible and offer the most efficient and effective solution. We’ve also created VRTogether.org , a platform that allows non-profits, charities and individuals without the skills or funds to create VR content to connect with suppliers who could help. All they need to do is signup and post their idea, and users with the particular skills they need can reply and volunteer to donate their time.
I own a bike factory and want to promote our latest BMX model. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me? Money is not an issue. Go crazy!
– We’ve worked with lots of automotive brands on an extremely diverse range of projects. Check out some of the links below to get a flavour of what is possible. I often say “if I can think it we can make it”. Really, the only constraint is our imagination!
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?
– VR offers an amazing new marketing opportunity for brands – users aren’t just passively consuming a message, they’re participating in a brand experience. How a customer experiences a brand is becoming synonymous with how they perceive the brand, and perception is ultimately what drives today’s market. Brands are starting to realise this and they are thinking of VR as more than a gimmick, they are embracing the unique type of experience it offers and reaping the benefits of utilising this powerful media to tell their latest stories and launch their latest products.
The phrase “the medium is the message” has never been more relevant. In terms of an experience that can transport someone in a completely unique new way, there is nothing like this. It’s an opportunity to put consumers inside your brand. It’s the next generation of storytelling.
Plus there is an inherent power in putting users at the center of the action, letting them experience what’s happening on their own terms leads to more engagement, even empathy. Audiences are increasingly becoming more demanding, they want to be entertained and engaged in new and innovative ways. VR is the perfect tool to create impactful experiences that leave a lasting impression on the user.
What sort of VR experiences do you think we will see in the future, in terms of marketing?
– Eye tracking will fundamentally improve the user experience through intuitive user input, secure authentication, improved graphics, and expressive social interaction. Project Falcon , the AAA quality launch day demo we created for the FOVE 0 headset, takes full advantage of the eye-tracking software in the HMD while using ‘foveated rendering’ – a technique that will become increasingly important for creating impressive VR content that runs efficiently.
In regards to other interesting developments, EEG is on our radar. We’ve worked with EEG caps in simulator applications in the Castrol EDGE Clone Rival project and would like to explore what it means for VR. Brain-computer interfaces that allow people to control software and devices using only their brain activity could transform AR and VR experiences.
What do you think are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?
– The worst thing you can do with a marketing campaign is assume that using virtual reality will automatically make your campaign good. Bad content in any medium is still bad content. If you lack an interesting and creative idea, putting your campaign in VR isn’t going to make it better. How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there? It all depends on the idea. If it’s a killer, it will go far. The user base for VR is currently a bit of a limitation – you have to be clever about how you market VR content to ensure maximum awareness even though everyone might not be able to experience it.
How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?
– Media coverage, awards etc, but the key for me is user feedback – the look on their face when they take off the HMD is better than a 1000 words! Soon there will be a lot more metrics around VR from dwell times to impressions. But if we plug too many blatant marketing messages into VR content, we’re interrupting the beauty of VR – the ability to truly escape reality – and we create just another interruptive medium. Getting the balance right between compelling content and ROI is important, and it will only be achieved
when content creators and marketers work closely together.
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
– With VR, I can be an air race pilot or drive the latest car, I can swim with dolphins or travel to far flung places. Brands also have the opportunity to show consumers products before they are launched, to build hype and excitement or on a more practical level offer a ‘try before you buy’. The applications are endless and the diversity of the medium adds to the appeal. From 360 degree video to true VR, there are solutions for different budgets and different stories.
I love this versatility mainly because it makes our day job so interesting – the projects we’re working on are so diverse and different from each other that you never, ever get bored! It’s an exciting time to embrace VR, there are no rules…yet. Consumers are far from tired of this new medium and content done in the right way is met with extraordinary reactions, emotional reactions. What’s not to love and get excited about?!
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