Putting New Tools and Technologies to the Test
Issue: Volume 39 Issue 2: (Mar/Apr 2016)

Putting New Tools and Technologies to the Test

In this industry, new and improved tools and technology are par for the course. Companies continue to invent new ways of doing things better, faster, different, while artists employ it to creative outcome. It’s a symbiotic relationship that helps push the boundaries of artistic endeavors. 

Today, we are looking at some game-changing technologies. First, there is virtual reality (VR). We’ve been talking about it in the pages of CGW for about a year now. Unlike so many trends that seem to be hot one quarter and cold the next, VR has been ramping up and gathering quite a bit of steam. 

Once the domain of science, military, and big industry, the resurgence of VR is getting a large boost from the public sector, thanks in large part to affordable head-mounted displays (HMDs). At the time of this writing, the annual Game Developers Conference was in full force. And on everyone’s lips: virtual reality. Indeed, this was a big year for VR at the show, with HMD vendors releasing what had been very guarded information concerning specs and pricing (see “Virtual Reality 2.0” on page 34).

Presently, three products for use on the higher end of the VR spectrum are garnering attention: the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR (PSVR). The fact that these HMDs are having such a major impact on guiding the industry’s VR journey is staggering, considering that, as of deadline, none have hit the market yet! 

Consider two VR HMDs that are available today – Google Cardboard and Gear VR – and are driving widespread development of VR. Both are considered lower-end devices and are priced accordingly, since they utilize the technology already present in a person’s smartphone – just insert the phone in the headset and off you go on a virtual adventure.

Drawing the biggest crowds (in terms of the general public) to VR is Cardboard, which is available free of charge as a do-it-yourself kit (or for less than $20, you can purchase one already assembled online by eager entrepreneurs).

The future of storytelling in VR looks especially bright, and some established outlets are already in the game. Last year, The New York Times handed out a million-plus Cardboard goggles to subscribers, launching its own VR app with it for immersing users in a story like never before – a Paris bombing vigil, the plight of children refugees, and more.   

In February, Good Morning America (GMA) tapped into the technology, taking viewers on an immersive VR safari in Tanzania, Africa, with a live-streamed event that worked with Cardboard or Gear VR. What’s more, this adventure was made even more fantastic by the aerial views shot with drones. Similarly, last summer GMA used drones to give viewers an unprecedented (non-VR) look inside the hidden world deep within a massive under-ground cave in Vietnam.  

Indeed, drones are being used by directors and filmmakers to provide enhanced storytelling within 360 degrees. To shed light on this other fast-growing technology for the industry, CGW and its sister publication, Post Magazine, are presenting a series of articles on the use of drones in production (film, TV, and more). We kick off the report on page 26, and we will follow this and other new technologies in the coming months as creatives continue to use these tools to break new ground in storytelling.