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Netflix working on technology that allows viewers to choose plot points

Netflix, the TV-streaming company behind hit shows such as The Crown and House Of Cards, is working on ways to give viewers control of key plot decisions.

A source said: "We’re doing work on branch narratives so you are actually making choices as you watch. All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways.

"We’ll see how it plays out. It’s an experiment. We’ll see if it gets much success. For creators, it’s new territory."
Actors would film numerous alternate plot segments in advance, letting viewers choose which route to take through the story.

The most complex versions could turn back on themselves, so viewers could in theory watch dramas that are "infinite.”
Netflix will run a trial with choose-your-own-adventure shows for children later this year, based on an established character.
If they are successful, it will use the format for TV programmes aimed at adults. It has not said whether it would apply the format to established series, or use it exclusively for new ones.


Europe’s virtual reality sector has grown to nearly 300 companies

The first European Virtual Reality landscape research shows that games are the most competitive space.

User input technology — focused on interactions in VR by brain (BCI), body, eye, feet, and hand — has many premium players, such as the Swiss-based company MindMaze that raised $100 million, the largest amount raised in one round by any European VR company.

Companies in VR post-production are developing 3D tools, and leading American software companies have acquired several of these startups over the past two years: Google acquired Irish Thrive Audio, Facebook acquired Scotland-based Two Big Ears, and Snapchat acquired London-based Seen/Obvious Engineering.

More than half of the companies included in the landscape are based in the U.K., France, Germany, and Sweden. Overall, France is taking the lead in VR in continental Europe.

“The VR industry is booming and not just in the U.S. or Asia. The old continent has known a slower start, but definitely got up to speed during the past two years,” says Leen Segers, cofounder and CEO at LucidWeb, in a statement. “The VR gaming segment remains the most competitive space but is surely challenged by a large number of companies focusing on user input or 3D tools. We feel very excited for the future as we see local and international investors are clearly investing in these segments, too.”


Adobe's path to entering the Virtual Reality story

For filmmakers, the blending of creative and technical aptitude has been beneficial. But there’s a limit, one that has more elements than the kind of rigs you use, or the headsets they will eventually populate. In the center of all of that, there is software. Until recently, the pioneers of Virtual Reality storytelling, especially live action, were using the digital equivalent of baling wire and duct tape to tell their stories. For the Adobe Video Team, it was hearing multiple times that video creators were using Premiere to edit VR that sprung them into action.

Last April, Adobe announced it would release VR editing capabilities into its Premiere Pro software. But to get this far, the team had to be comfortable with a whole list of ifs.

If audiences are going to be interested in Virtual and Augmented Reality stories, beyond the initial novelty, really good narratives must draw them in like any other media.

If filmmakers are going to create those great immersive stories, they need to put their energies into inventing new possibilities for the headset.

If that is going to succeed, an even wider range of creators, both professionals and enthusiasts, must experiment with, and ultimately deliver, content that audiences need to consume and want to discuss.

If creators are going to do that, they need intuitive software that will enable experimentation and iteration close to real-time and at high capacities.

If all of that happens, software will become, as it so often is, a quiet center of the Virtual and Augmented Reality revolution. Adobe and their partners’ would want to be there for that, of course. As one of the leaders of a powerful crossover market (enthusiast to professional editors), the chance to ease users from the flat screen to a spherical one ensures they would keep pace with a rapidly changing creative need.

The state of play, and understanding how to create a whole world, that’s the magic Adobe is trying to capture.


Visual Effects made the return of some iconic Star Wars characters possible

Rogue One’s visual effects mark a further evolution in the use of digitally created actors.

Peter Cushing, a British actor famous for playing such iconic parts as Sherlock Holmes and Victor Frankenstein, died in 1994. But that didn’t stop Lucasfilm and the Lucasfilm-owned digital effects house Industrial Light & Magic from reanimating his likeness so that Star Wars’ villain, Grand Moff Tarkin, could make a convincing new appearance in Rogue One.

Director Gareth Edwards has already begun to explain the process, telling that as the idea of including Tarkin in the story developed, John Knoll, the film’s visual effects supervisor, convinced him that instead of recasting Tarkin, it would be possible to create a credible performance that would look as if Cushing himself had stepped back in front of the cameras.

The creation of a believable CG human — which has long been considered the holy grail of the visual effects industry — has presented a challenge for even the world’s most skilled VFX artists and companies.

To accomplish the feat, the filmmakers hired Guy Henry, a 56-year-old British actor whose long, lean frame and physiognomy bear a resemblance to Cushing’s. Henry played the part of Tarkin on set, then the VFX team took over to transform him into Cushing.

The work on display in Rogue One is an impressive new example of the potential for creating CG human characters, and it will no doubt spark plenty of debate about how, and why, CG humans could be used in future movies.


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.


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