Why did you guys start a VR studio?
– We started before the VR fever. We were mostly focused on interior design and gesture controlled installations. So we already had a team of Unity/Unreal developers, when Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard came out. And it was natural for us to switch to a 360 production workflow. In 2015 I tried 360 video for the first time when I saw Chris Milk’s documentary Clouds over Sidra, and within those 8 minutes I was completely persuaded by this new medium. I tried to find similar experiences made in Asia but could only find gimmicky 360 dances or other holiday videos. So the week after I flew to Manila to do the first 360 documentary in Asia – Happyland360. It was an amazing experience for me. Doing something that wasn’t done before, going and filming somewhere for the first time ever.
How would you describe your company culture?
– Friendly, hard working and honest. If you have a bad concept, or misunderstand the limitations of VR, we will show you potential problems with execution before the project starts. But in general we are happy to work with companies on their ideas, as we see us as partners in bringing VR to the masses.
What is it like working with your VR studio?
– First, we connect both creative and technical sides. It seems to be obvious that VR company should have both in place, but so far we see either Creative-only or Tech-only teams. The first category create unique but hopeless concepts, the second category create technically advanced ideas but lack in storytelling
– Second, don’t expect a passive approach from us. Instead of working for a customer, my team likes to work with the customers to adjust, redevelop and refine their drafts and ideas.
– Third, I am quite honest with the customer and if they don’t need a VR sollution and can achieve their goal using 2D video or other conventional tools I would be first to tell them that. Or at least show them a way to adjust a proposed concept, so there would be more sense and business value to do it in VR/360.
Can you show me something you’ve done that you are extra proud of?
– Happyland360. It started as an idea to do the first 360 documentary made in asia. The movie became the most viewed 360 video made in Singapore and got an Honorable Mention in Best Interactive Story at Vision Summit 2016 next to Chris Milk and Waves of Grace. It was also featured at three others international film festivals. Most importantly it has motivated other film-makers in the region to focus on meaningful VR, rather than gimmicky time-lapses.
What area, geographically speaking, are you available to work in?
-Primarily South-East Asia, but we have some collaborations in China and Korea.
What is your studio’s core expertise?
– I would say, we are like a VR Media Agency for Media Agencies, as we can create concepts from scratch, do brainstorming with them and then present and execute ideas in 360/VR. So companies do not come to us for execution/filming only, they come when they want a proof the concept, or to do something emotionally strong using best available resources and without blowing up the budget.
Do you offer any type of satisfaction guarantee?
– There are few stages of “guarantee”: First, we normally work on 50% prepayment. The remaining 50% paid only after the project is finished. And we are financially responsible for the result till the last moment of the project. Second, we understand that the number of VR projects on the market is limited. That is why each VR project attracts lots of attention. And it would be 3 times more painful compared to standard 2D filming to fail the project or leave the customer unhappy. We even had situations when at the end of the project customer decided that they need extra features, because now they see the VR experience and this feature will improve the emotional effect at least twice. So even if that wasn’t mentioned in original contract on a paper we have added this feature to have a nice reference for future projects. But my general advice for all customers. Until the market is not fixed yet, do ask for Proof of Concept (POC). POC in our company normally costs 10% from the total project price, but helps to get an 80% experience within 1-2 weeks, long before the event would be launched.
Do you offer revisions of completed work?
– If that suits business goals. For example we had an interactive installation inside a mall. We saw that before Christmas holidays there was a significant drop of visitors to the booth, so we proposed to create new “christmas themed” cloth for existing characters. After a few weeks of tests the visual appearance of this interactive installation was completely revisioned and we saw number going up.
Can you give some examples of what your studio can do for a small company with limited resouces?
– If the company is too small, and resources are too limited, I wouldn’t suggest VR in the first place. Seriously, the technology has made huge progress since Oculus rift was introduced, but the hardware cost still matters. I would say that 5,000 USD can be considered as a basic cost for VR/360 experiences. We had one project that cost same the amount of money and presented nice 360 aerial filming combined with real estate company presentation for prospect employees and investors. The length was around 3 minutes, the production time within 1 week.
I own a flash light factory and want to promote our latest flash light model. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me? Money is not an issue. Go crazy.
– Rent a big warehouse and create a VR horror experience (old cemetery, hospital etc). Bring couples, one of them wearing VR headset + VR Backpack and can use light in VR space to see the way. The other person is not wearing VR headset and can’t see anything in pitch black environment (he/she is just following the first person). During the journey the couple changes the roles and wearing VR headset to solve the mystery and escape the cemetery until the battery on the VR headset dies.
I own a funeral home and we would like to promote our business. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me?
– Create a series of 360 animation videos where you can meet famous people who already died to hear of how their stories continue after death (see what Che Guevara, Ernest Hemmingway, John Lennon do in the underworld).
I own an italian restaurant. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me?
– Depending on how far you want to go. Quite basic idea for “old family restaurant” is to create a 360 video about “behind the scene” of the restaurant (starting from picking the ingredients from different places of Italy up to final preparation). Similar to what Glenfiddich Whisky has made.
More extravagant idea (let’s say for contemporary Italian restaurant) is to create a VR + real life experience similar to X-Factor where you need to eat some nasty things in VR (eyes of the dragon for instance) and eat “similar” dish in real life while wearing VR headset. Who stayed till the end – won the dinner/wine etc.
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 advertising campaign?
– Living in the cave all these years you didn’t miss much. VR is still a new medium that is only forming. There are lots of articles explaining how VR benefits marketing and storytelling, so I don’t want to recap all of them here. But if asked the only reason why you should look/invest in VR I would be prone to say – the novelty factor. Imagine how many great images-based campaign people have seen already? Then imagine of how many great 2D videos and commercials was created. To create something new in flat 2D area would be almost impossible, out of millions of possible combinations not much options left. Every campaign I see now, I have seen already when I was a young boy 15-20 years ago. Yep, the quality has changed, the music, but it is still a “distant picture” concept, you can only see it from the outside. But 360 video and VR is different and the first reason is because our experience of it is next to nothing. We don’t know what to expect and that is why chances to excite or surprise in VR is higher than in any other conventional media (of course this novelty feeling will eventually wear off within next few years).
What sort of VR experiences do you think we will see in the future, in terms of marketing?
– You have possibly seen videos about Mixed Reality (“SIGHT” is one my favourites), and it seems that Google, Facebook etc going to bring us that way (everything integrated inside your glasses or even your eyes, so you can chat, watch news, buy stuff immediately). These technologies will enable geotag marketing, role-playing scenarios and gamification of your everyday activity (we saw some examples in conventional business, e.g. Foursquare that has “mayor competition” and then “Foursquaropoly” that was development of an idea of Foursquare and integrating Monopoly element into it). Of course, many things need to be done before that would be possible. Honestly I don’t like this concept as I want to separate Virtual Reality and Reality Reality. VR can be cool, but we always need to have chance to return back to reality.
What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?
– First. It may sounds obvious, but making VR/360 for the sake of making VR/360. Some campaigns won’t win by bringing them into 360 format. Lots of commercials in 360 don’t use 360/VR at full scale. Second. Companies think that VR/360 experience can be the core activity of the marketing campaign.
VR is not as developed yet, technically and from a point of available tools for storytelling, and I see it as a complimentary experience combined with some conventional media and physical experiences. One of my favourite commercials is actually “Real Memories” created by Gevorg Karensky for Mini. It was a commercial without commercial elements, they never said anything about Mini car, only showed it for 5-10 seconds during the whole experience. The video was a great success for Mini, and aside from 360 video they launched few offline events, 2D trailer for this movie, as well as series of 2D clips featuring particular benefits of the car, using the same crew we saw in 360 cinematic movie. So I think that should be the way to go – tell beautiful stories in VR first and only then put the brand name on it.
Pick a brand and product that you like and tell me what sort of campaign you would create, given total freedom.
– I can think only about few NGOs we work with, such as WWF, Save the Children etc. I think they are possibly the only companies who do care about what is going to happen with people in 10-20- 50-100 years. And I personally want to help them by creating powerful stories about people, children, places, animals. Something like what VRSE does for United Nations, but focused particularly on Asia region
How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there?
– I expect that within 5 years at least 30-40% of campaigns would have either VR, AR or 360 video related content, currently we see the shift between 4-5%. I think major drivers are technological – as soon as you start to believe that you teleported to another place and you won’t need any special accessories expect those you have in your pocket, then VR/AR can become a valuable part of marketing.
How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?
– You can’t define success based only on number of views, especially when Facebook started to propose 360 video streaming and a video become automatically “watched” after 3 seconds. So I would suggest to choose some specific metric, ideally in non-digital space. I.e. we are now developing 360 VR documentary for Global NGOs and one of the key success factors is “how many people will sign the pledge for particular initiative”. We know that last year it was 10,000 people, so we aim to get 50,000 sign ups this year using a 360 documentary format.
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
– I think I am still excited with the fact that I can change my surroundings and my opinion about one or another neutral topics by watching a VR/360 experience. A good example was the Syrian refugees that appeared in “Clouds over Sidra”, so from a neutral “I don’t care about them” I have changed to “They are normal people looking for a safe place, and if I would have chance I want to help them”. But most importantly this movie was showcased at Davos Economical Forum 2015 for those people who are actually making decision on the fate of these refugees. So the empathy crossed thousands of miles.
STUDIO: Vostok VR