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Hollywood is terrible at making video game movies

Assassin’s Creed is the fourth 2016 movie based on a popular video game series, following Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, and Warcraft. Angry Birds, the most praised of the bunch, scored a 43 on Rotten Tomatoes, with supposedly positive reviews like the one from Megan Garber in The Atlantic lauding it as “really not bad” and “actually very actively okay.”

There’s really no good reason it should be this hard to successfully adapt a video game.

Untangling convoluted pulp storytelling isn’t always easy. But it’s hardly impossible. If Hollywood creatives can render decades’ worth of comic book contrivance accessible and enjoyable to the masses, surely some screenwriter and director can do the same for a video game movie.

However, too many seem intent on quoting their source material and winking at fans in ways that don’t serve the story.

All of this stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the two different media work. Games are about worlds and systems, relayed through player-driven choices and exploration. Movies are about characters and stories, with the viewer experience entirely guided by the filmmakers. When video game movies don’t work, it’s often because they are overly invested in the worlds and systems that fans already love, at the expense of the characters and stories.


Netflix will double its original series in 2017

Netflix currently has 30 original scripted series in various stages of development or release, and in 2017 it’s going to go big on unscripted shows, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

“Unscripted television is a very interesting business,” Sarandos said, saying the company is focusing on shows that are “more likely to travel internationally.”

Sarandos reiterated Netflix’s previous guidance that the company plans to spend about $6 billion in 2017 on content on a profit-and-loss basis, up from $5 billion in 2016. With the boost in production on originals, that will take up a bigger chunk of the overall content budget, and Netflix execs have said they’re aiming to have originals represent 50% of the content on its service.

However, he said: “I don’t want to get trapped in that model” of producing every original series or film in-house. The company is also building up a stable of original movies. “That’s the kind of project we’re trying to steer the model toward — the way we’ve created television events, can we do that in the movie space?” said Sarandos. About one-third of Netflix’s overall viewing is of movies, he said.


Get ready for multisensory Virtual Reality

The promise of virtual realty is that it renders a convincing and transportive world: a reality that is virtual.

This is great for entertainment and gaming, but also important for therapeutic purposes; where VR’s ability to trick the nervous system into feeling lite it is somewhere it is not could make it an incredibly useful medium for treating a wide range of physiological and psychiatric conditions.

The Rez Synesthesia Suit: A Velcro-on body rig concept that uses countless pulsing motors, adds the sense of touch to virtual reality experiences. And we are set to see a lot more of these.

Because it is hard to fundamentally change the way consumers experience technology, programmers need to spend the time and effort to bake in other senses. And whether it’s adding the smell of coffee beans to the Starbucks homepage or vibrations to a VR earthquake simulator, that’s a lot of extra work to devote to a nascent technology that few people may have access to.

Multisensory VR could be a legitimate game-changer, and if building this technology for gamers allows it to eventually be used for medical and therapeutic purposes, that’s a win-win.


Episodic virtual reality content is the future of VR

Warrior9 is a Singapore‐based video and VR production house developing what it calls the first animated science-fiction VR series. Called ’The PhoenIX,’ the show is set in space and employs a range of technologies such as motion-capture, the process of incorporating human movement into a three-dimensional model, to document mankind’s race for survival against an unknown enemy.

Unlike conventional animation, motion-capture experienced in VR injects a stronger dose of realism by making viewers feel like they are actually in ’The PhoenIX,’ floating in space or caught in the middle of a frenetic dogfight.

"The majority of VR non-gaming content currently comprises of short films and videos. There are few things to keep you coming back. We would watch something amazing in VR like [animated film] ’Allumette’ from Penrose Studios and then go hunting for something else," chief creative director Abhi Kumar told CNBC, explaining why his team chose to focus on episodes, instead of one-off experiences.

As VR increasingly penetrates the mainstream consciousness, with more hardware available on the market, "the technology required to pull off such an ambitious project has finally gotten to the point where you no longer need a huge studio to create engaging visuals to go along with the story," noted Race Krehel, The PhoenIX’s lead VR animator.

Innovative storytelling is set to be the next frontier for VR, with more investors throwing their support behind content players, not just hardware makers.


Bollywood explores different ways to tell movie stories

The producers of the box-office record-breaking 2015 Telugu-Tamil blockbuster film Baahubali: The Beginning are not only getting ready to release a sequel, but they have also created a graphic novel, an animated web series and a video game to accompany it. A Game of Thrones-style live-action TV series and a prequel novel are also reportedly in the works.

By using multiplatform storytelling in this way, the film’s director, S S Rajamouli, wants to create an interconnected multimedia world for his film, the same way Hollywood does with franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and, more recently, Marvel’s superheroes.

"The animated series, graphic novel and the game are different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together to expand the larger universe of characters and stories from Baahubali," says Sharad Devarajan, the chief executive and co-founder of Graphic India, the digital media company given the task of creating them.

He believes that with the introduction of such tie-in products, Baahubali has the potential to be the Indian equivalent of Star Wars.


Film company co-founder on turning passion into profit

“We were so desperate for work that we said to O2 that we would do it for free,” Simon Kreitem remembers. “We worked on spec in the hope that if the client liked it, it might just pay for it.”

It was the final roll of the dice for the London-based independent film company, Lonelyleap, which makes documentaries for brands such as Google, American Express, Innocent and Jaguar.

One year in and the company was really struggling.
O2 eventually offered ?40,000 for the film. The company lived to fight another day. “We worked hand-to-mouth for the next five years,” says Kreitem. “We pretty much made no money for half a decade.”

Until 2011, when demand started to really take off.
With faster internet speeds, people could stream high-quality video without any lag or loss of quality. With a smartphone in their pocket, they could do it on the move. Brands had a new medium through which to tell their story.

Key to the company’s success, Kreitem believes, is its uncompromising approach to film. “We don’t cut something to fit a boardroom message,” he explains. It’s not about creating an ad with a slogan.

Instead Kreitem takes an investigative approach, which he honed working as a photojournalist for seven years. “We want to tell stories that cut to the heart of why a company does what it does.”

That starts by asking the simple question at the beginning of each project: what’s the story?


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