Verizon Media’s London XR studios contain a treasure trove of technology for producers to play with. From an XR stage that allows for real-time augmented reality broadcast, to motion capture and volumetric capture, there’s a lot to have fun with. To encourage brands, agencies and production companies to check out the facilities, they’ve launched the Creative Tech Format Fund. The six-figure fund will allow those who access it to turn ideas for interactive and immersive entertainment experiences into ‘proof of concepts’ and also give access to The Story Lab and Verizon Media’s global distribution on through their leading content brands, relationships and platforms.
LBB> Why is Verizon specifically hoping to target brands and these sorts of productions - what's the strategic goal for this?
Verizon Media is a global media technology company, with its own content brands as well as digital content distribution platforms. We create content with and for our own brands and on behalf of customers - from production companies, to creative agencies, media agencies and brands - and distribute it to millions of people all around the world in various formats: from live TV to Digital Out of Home to mobile AR ads.
By bringing customers into our studio to create, more and more people will realise the benefits and huge engagement opportunities that XR production techniques can be used to bring content to life in new ways. Whether that be TV formats, digital content across publishers’ sites or apps, or advertising and branded content opportunities. Combining Verizon Media’s and The Story Lab’s production capabilities and expertise with our XR content distribution will also help brands and content creators get these new ideas seen.
Verizon Media has its own Content Delivery Network (CDN) for live broadcasts, plus our Verizon Media Immersive suite as part of our demand side platform (DSP) with interactive and AR formats that can be placed across premium apps and content across the globe for instance.
The Story Lab continues to innovate in this new entertainment economy where broadcasters, brands, and real world consumer experiences converge. Consumers are connecting with one another in new ways through gaming and we believe TV’s next big thing will be unlocked by connected gaming sensibilities. Given its access to commissioners and dentsu brands this partnership should be beneficial for both sides, especially as more and more broadcasters welcome brands to play a more meaningful role in producing TV programmes.
LBB> Can you talk us through the technologies available?
Our tools cover every shape of mixed through to full virtual reality production, all under one central London roof. You can play with virtual sets on our XR stage, as well as real-time 3D performance capture using motion and facial capture, a volumetric rig and photogrammetry rig, giving us the ability to do things like create new virtual talent from scratch (digital doubles) as well as interactive choose-your-own-adventure storytelling using facial recognition and AI.
LBB> The XR stage reminds us of the big LED screens being used instead of green screen for shows like The Mandalorian - is that a fair comparison?
Yes, in essence, we use a similar combination of virtual sets, real-time rendering and LED technology on our XR stage. What makes this a game-changer from traditional green screen, is that now everyone in-studio can ‘see’ the CG world they’re performing or filming in (instead of having to look at a separate monitor), making for a much more immersive and natural production experience. It’s super versatile; you can create virtual sets any size, style or shape. Photoreal or stylised. Moving or static.
LBB> Volumetric capture has tonnes of applications both in film production and also for more interactive digital projects - where do you see the application for brands?
Depending on the product or service of the brand, there are lots of opportunities to use volumetric capture to bring digital content to life.
Brands can get involved with all scales of volcap- it’s fantastic for high volume ‘digital keepsakes’, turning talent or fans into shareable avatars either in-studio or out at live events, through to premium ‘front row fan experiences’- capturing iconic stages or entire stadiums in 3D. With the latter, we can bring immersive gigs into consumers’ living rooms, watchable from any angle and as close up to the action as possible. When you think about applications of commercial experiences, you can see how these types of formats can work for shoppable, digital content - from avatars to NFTs as just a couple of examples.
LBB> You’ve got AR broadcast capabilities Can you talk a little bit more about how that works and what sort of platforms it will work particularly well for?
How it works- our broadcast AR camera rig allows us to see and capture both live action performances happening in-studio, together with action happening in mixed or virtual reality worlds live in realtime. So now presenters and performers can interact with those digital experiences as if they are immersed in them - again making for a much more natural production.
Platforms- it’s perfect for live streaming AR events into online gaming social spaces, or for TV production- enabling the use of real-time motion and facial capture tools for everything from interactive digital double performances, to turning animated characters into TV hosts and even noisy new TV format devices such as avatar disguises for talent shows. Sales teams can also use broadcast AR to host live virtual shopping experiences featuring 3D product demos - ensuring the perfect placement with the ability to bring unique features to life, explode layers and zoom in and out.
LBB> And will you be able to consult with production companies/directors to advise them on the best technologies to leverage to bring their script to life?
Yes, absolutely. We want people to be able to tap into our combined expertise to get the best out of the technology available. As ever, it’s all about starting with the story and then finding the best, most creative and fun ways to tell it. And XR production techniques can give many new ways to bring stories to life.
LBB> So, what impact do you think 5G will have on content creation and production in the longer term? Typically, production uses a lot of very data-heavy files so quick and untethered connectivity seems like it could have some interesting effects?
Overall we believe the power of 5G will enable the next generation of content experiences to be more immersive, interactive and smarter.
We can now empower many more creators with super-director powers - with realtime technologies, powered by 5G, you get full control of what you see on camera, so you can finally design performances shows, performances, keynotes and brand experiences EXACTLY the way you want.
With faster connectivity across the production ecosystem from cameras, to edge computing, to streaming live XR and multi-camera views etc, we can find more efficient ways of producing internationally: you can film live interviews, gigs, or pick-ups anywhere around the world.
LBB> On the other hand, how do you think it will free things up creatively?
Appointment to view linear TV is still well and truly alive in drama - Line of Duty most recently - sport and even entertainment with shows like The Masked Singer a great shared family viewing experience. But appointment-to-view live entertainment TV has incredible potential with this type of technology. Live interactive game shows with cinematic setups and a combination of brilliant comedy scripted characters in a non-scripted format sounds exciting, right?!
LBB> How can brands, agencies and production companies access the fund? Is there a particular criterion for projects you want to support?
Anyone wishing to enquire about the fund can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
In terms of criteria, we’re looking for really interesting, creative ideas for TV formats - Entertainment, Game Shows, Quiz, Comedy Panel shows, anything scalable - that brings to life these technologies in fun and potentially new ways.
Ideas must have strong UK commissioner interest and require a proof of concept
Branded Entertainment is also welcome but shares the same criteria as above