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Is the future VR ... or AR?

Google VR boss Clay Bavor explains why VR and AR aren’t that different.

“The reality is, we’re at the very beginning of the journey to that fully realized version of VR,” Bavor said.
Google consciously chose to make its first VR headset out of cardboard, he explained, because it’s more important to give people a “glimpse” of what will be possible than to push the bleeding edge from the get-go. But in certain areas, like 360-degree videos that can be viewed in a VR headset, the technology is near or already here.

“If you think about what do we use our phones’ cameras for, very few of the photos we take are artistically beautiful and well-composed — I’m speaking for myself,” Bavor said. “It’s about capturing a moment, capturing a memory, and we have line of sight to the first versions of VR cameras that let you record an experience.”

But consumer VR hardware is still considered a niche gaming experience, and some in the tech industry have started to say that augmented reality is the future instead. Google has been experimenting with Tango, its AR platform for certain mobile phones, since 2013, and Apple recently entered the fray by announcing its own platform, ARKit, for newer iOS devices.

Bavor said he doesn’t believe there has to be an either-or choice between VR and AR.

“They’re different points on the same spectrum of — I call it immersive computing,” he said. “I don’t really care about the label, but it’s this idea that you have computing and digital imagery that feels like it’s there. Virtual reality, everything is computer-generated; augmented reality, you have bits and pieces of digital information overlaid on your environment.”


VR ads are almost here. Don’t act surprised

Last week, Unity, the world’s largest VR development company, announced Virtual Room, a new type of interactive advertisement it plans to roll out later this year. Unlike the standalone VR marketing experiences you’ve seen before, Virtual Room ads will surface across a wide network of VR apps, similar to the display ads you see on your laptop or the video ads you see while playing games on your phone. Don’t act surprised—you knew this was coming.

Like any new medium, VR must be monetized, says Tony Parisi head of Unity’s VR and AR strategy. “Developers want to make money,” he says. “We want to help them do that.“ Until recently, though, it was unclear how, exactly, that would happen. Most VR developers make cash from micro transactions and in-app purchases, but that’s pennies compared to what advertising can bring in.

Creating compelling content that doesn’t feel like an advertisement is one way to avoid audience burnout. Still, developing high caliber content is prohibitively expensive. According to a recent report from Forrester, developing a single 360 video ad can cost in the tens of thousands; developing a fully interactive ad could cost upwards of $500,000.

For advertisers, the cost might be too high for what’s still essentially an experiment. But Unity has reason to bet on it. There might not be many people using VR headsets today, but if Virtual Room becomes a de facto ad standard in what’s projected to be a growing field, Unity has a lot to gain.


Netflix's secret weapon isn't reboots—it's genre movies

Netflix has made no secret of its feature-film ambitions in recent years. Some of that has been for critical acclaim: In 2015, it booked a brief theatrical run for its first big original movie, Beasts of No Nation, in hopes of qualifying for an Academy Award nomination. Some of it has been to cement its global viewership: its gargantuan multi-picture deal with Adam Sandler has paid off internationally, even if US viewers seem underwhelmed by the result. This year, though, has seen the company shifting into conventional blockbuster territory with the $60 million Brad Pitt vehicle War Machine—and now, with Bright and Death Note, it completes a 2017 genre trifecta that began with Bong Joon-Ho’s creature feature, Okja.

At Comic-Con, the panelists’ ceaseless jocularity wasn’t just directed at each other—they reserved plenty of love for their employer as well. To hear them say it, Netflix could do no wrong.

"Netflix is gonna pull a lot of talent because they’re so supportive," Ayer said at one point. "It’s like 20 years ago." When Netflix was first getting into original content, it famously attracted high-profile creators by giving them creative control. That’s how David Fincher and House of Cards happened. That’s how Jenji Kohan and Orange is the New Black happened. That’s how Arrested Development came back. That hadn’t happened in television before—but it has happened in movies, when Miramax led the indie revolution of ’90s by betting on risky-sounding movies like Pulp Fiction, Clerks, and Trainspotting. If Netflix is bringing its hands-off development model to movie and, as judging from Bright’s $90 million budget, bringing a bag of money to genre stuff, its transition to movie powerhouse might get a lot easier.


What should music TV look like in 2017?

The explosion of catch-up TV, a more active kind of viewing, means that those passive moments are becoming less prevalent; and with truly mass-cultural pop stars as rare as they’ve ever been – and tastes as varied and particular as a tailored Spotify playlist – the reality is that this show will probably not chime with how we enjoy music today. Those “sketches and interviews” point to a Carpool Karaoke-style viral format being cooked up (the show’s producer, Fulwell 73, is responsible for that James Corden triumph). Producers will parcel up these and the performances into shareable chunks on YouTube, which is probably where they’ll mostly be watched – further reducing the likelihood of viewers stumbling across something unexpected.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas, music editor

Unlike its ancestors, the BBC’s forthcoming show will not lay down roots in the living rooms of wide-eyed pre-teens, agog at fantastical outfits and snarling frontmen. Instead, it’s best chance of reaching anyone under 30 will be if it is unceremoniously spliced up and uploaded on to YouTube. From there, it can worm its way on to Twitter feeds, morph into memes and rack up Facebook likes. That’s how the biggest non-scripted shows in the US stay relevant. Saturday Night Live is easily chopped into hyper-consumable three-minute chunks, while late-night hosts such as James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel deliberately create viral content (like Carpool Karaoke and Mean Tweets) for the internet.
Rachel Aroesti, critic and editor


Jane Campion: ‘The clever people used to do film. Now they do TV’

When she started out, Campion considered herself primarily a writer. “I had these stories and there was no chance of getting anybody else to do them, so I had to become a director of my own work. I never thought I wanted to be a film director. I’m not actually ambitious per se in terms of a career; I’m just ambitious to achieve the stories and dramas that I’ve come up with.”

Movies, Jane Campion says, have become conservative cash cows. “The really clever people used to do film. Now, the really clever people do television. I’d been feeling, in the film world, that if you come up with ideas, and you share them, the first concern is: how is the audience going to react?” Television has reinvigorated her. “Cinema in Australia and New Zealand has become much more mainstream. It’s broad entertainment, broad sympathy. It’s just not my kind of thing. As a goal, to make money out of entertaining doesn’t inspire me. But in television, there is no concern about politeness or pleasing the audience. It feels like creative freedom.”


Hollywood is using social causes to sell movie tickets

Two days before the June release of Kate Mara’s latest film “Megan Leavey,” the “House of Cards” actress was promoting the movie at an event in Washington.

But Mara wasn’t attending a premiere or a promotional junket, she was speaking at a rally calling for the restoration of online animal welfare records held outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That a rally held outside a government building may have been among the film’s most effective promotions highlights the increasing coordination between movie marketing and political and social advocacy.

Hollywood has always been purpose-oriented, both on the screen and off with prominent actor-activists ranging from Ronald Reagan to Angelina Jolie. But now causes are gaining in prominence and priority.

The biggest blockbusters now associate themselves with the worthiest missions. The “Star Wars: Force for Change” program, a charity launched by Lucasfilm and Disney in 2014, “harnesses the power of ‘Star Wars’ to empower and improve the lives of children around the world,” according to its website.

The renewed emphasis on philanthropy is changing how filmmakers view their creative projects. Yet some movie industry creatives think the emphasis on messaging can go too far.

“Causes are at the forefront of movies more than ever and the activism among actors, suppressed for a long time by the studios, is now considered a positive,” says Emmy-winning screenwriter Jake Jacobson. “But it’s getting to be product placement for ideology. I don’t see what benefit it is for a film to do that other than preach to the choir.”


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