Conference Discusses Immersive Storytelling

Are virtual reality and other “immersive” technologies ready to break into prime time? Can artificial intelligence be harnessed to work for content creation? And what are the latest hot technologies for broadcast production? Those are the track topics in the three-day Next-Generation Media Technologies Conference.

Today’s sessions will focus on virtual reality and the broader category of immersive media. Brian Seth Hurst of StoryTech Immersive leads with the session “Cinematic Virtual Reality: It’s Not the ‘What’ of Storytelling That Changes; It’s the ‘How.’”

“In film and television, audiences are more or less at ‘arm’s length,’ and as involved as they might be in the story, they are still removed from it,” Hurst said. “In immersive storytelling, the viewers actually enter into the story world, which is not only a mental willing suspension of disbelief, it is a physical one. It’s not the telling of the story; it is the ‘experience’ of story.”

Philip Lelyveld with Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California is a panelist for today’s session “Pushing Immersive Media to the Limit — Location-Based Entertainment.”

He said, “Location-based entertainment encompasses destinations that give you an entertainment experience that you cannot get at home. At the lowest level, they are VR arcades, but the focus of this panel will be on more sophisticated installations that incorporate elements of virtual, augmented and mixed reality, escape rooms, mazes, interactive games and thrill rides. They are of interest because they introduce consumers to new entertainment concepts, experiences and technologies that can be adapted or extended for the consumer market.”

Lelyveld said that immersive media is a catch-all term for virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

“When done well, [immersive media] creates a realistic multi-sensory experience that blends real and virtual elements,” he said.

Joining him on the panel are Flint Dillie of Ground Zero Productions, Brian Frager of Technicolor Experience Center, and Jenni Magee-Cook of Dreamscape Immersive.

On Tuesday, the conference will feature artificial intelligence and techniques to use AI within the entertainment industry. Usman Shakeel at Amazon Web Services will discuss the application of AI to content creation in his session “Machine Intelligence: The Evolution of Content Production Aided by Machine Learning.”

“AI enables a wide range of functionalities,” Shakeel said, “from basic tasks such as version creation for multiple languages, as well as compliance conforms to complicated scenarios, such as automated color correction, depth detection for 3D conversions and on-the-fly highlight package creation for sports events.”

Also presenting will be Yves Bergquist of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California. Bergquist’s session “Audience Genomics: Neuroscience & Machine Learning Practices to ‘Hack’ Audience Segmentation” can help create deep personalization.”

“I believe the entertainment industry is entering a crisis, and a lot of this crisis has to do with the fact that audiences now demand a lot of innovation in how film [and TV] stories are told,” Bergquist said in a blog post.

“They want novelty. And to satisfy them, Hollywood will need to profoundly transform how it does business. It will need to make more data-driven decisions and think more cognitively about its audiences.”

Wednesday will feature discussions on the state of production technology, including 4K and 8K production, cloud collaboration and codecs for distribution.

Among the presenters for Wednesday are Seth Levenson, University of Southern California; and Gabe Frost with Microsoft.

Levenson will discuss the role of the cloud in high-level television production, while Frost, who represents Microsoft at the Alliance for Open Media, will present on AOMedia’s free high-performance codec.

With a list of presenters heavy with industry talent and knowledge, the Next-Generation Media Technologies Conference is the right place to be if you want to learn what new tools and techniques are on the video horizon.