Each time in our personal and professional lives, we share stories to communicate, exchange information, or devour ourselves in tea-break giggles. Imagine the efforts made to blend a story into a visual narrative format; be it writing the script, directing or influencing the audience with the animated transitions. Evolving from the conventional 2D format to virtual reality, entrepreneurs are leveraging technological advances and introducing new storytelling avenues to advance their business.
With changing trends, storytelling has transformed itself with cutting-edge technology and innovative, creative solutions. On the way down the road with augmented reality (XR), AR / VR companies are creating a new course with narrative storytelling content and VR commercials.
Pioneer in the XR industry is Vanishing Point Media (VPM), LLC. Founded by Annie Lukowski and BJ Schwartz as its Co-foundersis the company’s leader in XR with its expertise in VR production services along with multi-camera solutions, pre-visualization, sewing and composting.
As an example of the technological leadership in the AR and VR area, Annie and BJ are committed to the community, developing high-quality narrative content and inspiring millions with their speeches at major industry events such as VRLA, NAB in Las Vegas, Google Labs and Forbes magazine .
We at Insight success interviewed Annie and BJ to learn more about Vanishing Point Media’s success story.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
Please write to our audience about Vanishing Point Media, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the Virtual Reality area.
VPM was founded in 2014 and has worked extensively in augmented reality (VR / AR) to create original narrative content and VR commercials. We’ve been proud to work with incredible partners and amazing brands, from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live to Toyota to Banana Republic – who sought VPM to create and oversee the company’s first ever entry into VR marketing. By collaborating with wonderful partners like these, VPM has become proficient at working on scaling budgets across a wide range of content.
In addition, our collaborations with brands located in the entertainment industry have enabled VPM to develop some of the most important workflows, which are now fixed elements in VR production and post-production. Its founders can be heard speaking at major industry events throughout the year, including VRLA, NAB in Las Vegas, Google Labs and Forbes magazine. We feel privileged to raise the bar in this new and dynamic entertainment medium.
Shed some light on your offers and how do these affect the industry and your customers?
Well, first and foremost, we are filmmakers and storytellers. At the root, Vanishing Point is a production company working in a new space. Technology is the medium, not the message, but there is no doubt that it is central to our mission.
We are proud that VPM has been at the forefront of innovating new techniques in the XR space in terms of storytelling, advertising and location-based installations. Whether we are working to help Toyota excite its customers or help ACLU educate its citizens, we always aim to hit the sweet spot between innovation, storytelling and customer service.
Annie and BJ, feel free to tell us about yourself, your individual journeys in the industry, and how you both have contributed to the company’s success.
Our partnership started when we jokingly founded “Annie and BJ Mutual Admiration Club” during the film school at the University of Southern California. And this continued after graduation when BJ was working on Lionsgate and touring with his short film “Wolves in the Woods” while I went to the digital page of brand entertainment at Funny or Die and Jeep.
In 2014, the burgeoning but electrifying medium of VR entered the market; we both saw its potential and wanted to learn more. Of course, nothing in VR worked as advertised, especially in the early days, but these challenges only spurred us on. In fact, it took us back to our hectic film school days, where we used towing equipment, recordings on tight budgets, and learned about new ways of telling a story that was nothing short of electrifying.
We were simply happy to have the leeway to explore a medium that was so untried. There was no teaching in VR storytelling – we discovered the rules while we were making – so we wanted to break out our cameras and learn by doing. Would anything work? Film it, throw on a headset and watch. That was all we had and we loved it.
Soon enough, we built our own vocabulary that we could share with colleagues and discuss through panels and lectures that bubbled up around VR filmmaking. Being at the forefront is scary and very cool – but not necessarily in the ways you expect.
As an experienced leader in the VR field, share your opinion on where your industry is headed.
Well, that’s a big, open question in a very, very unstable and evolving industry. The first question we need to ask is what do you mean by “mark”. These days, people working in our circles refer to the medium as “XR” (or “Extended Reality”), as it includes both VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality).
We have mostly worked in VR – which is the modality that you see in Ready Player One, where users put on a headset and enter a whole new world. “AR,” on the other hand, is more like Tony Stark’s glasses in Marvel – superimposing graphics and data on the world we already see.
We agree that AR will be huge in the coming years, but until consumers can get their hands on Stark’s glasses – we’re in a wait-and-see position on some aspects of storytelling in that format. It’s all just so new, and the tools are not quite ready for prime time in terms of camera-captured storytelling.
So as for Vanishing Point – we think the immediate future holds much more “traditional” VR content creation with partners like ABC, Pow Entertainment and Banana Republic.
Given the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face, and how did you get your business to maintain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees?
Like most film companies, we were on the set when the call was made to shut down in what we thought would be “two weeks.” It was much longer than two weeks and we had to turn around to develop and prepare our list of other long-term projects.
In short – apart from an incredibly fun project with Jimmy Kimmel, the pandemic has been downtime for us in relation to VR production, and we have spent that time focusing on development and more technology projects, which right now are a bit top secret.
What would be your advice for budding entrepreneurs who want to venture into VR Space?
Experiment a lot. Before your first real project. Visual storytelling is a language and we have been immersed in the 2D language of film and television from our earliest days. So we come to the part where we talk about the middle ground, which is to say the least.
It’s easy to take this exposure for granted and think that things are “intuitive” when informed about decades of engagement with a medium. Then you hit something like VR and find yourself learning the boundaries and possibilities of a new language while literally trying to create it.
It’s wild. Honestly – the only way to get good at it is to do something and then put on the headset and experience it for yourself. And you have to do it over and over and over again until you find just what works to evoke a feeling or attract attention in the 360-degree space. It is a joyful and sometimes painful process. And you can not shortcut it; experience is everything.
How do you envisage scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2022 and beyond?
With the much-anticipated leap into the field from Apple and all the developments at Facebook – the XR area is very busy (although this work may be behind the curtain for most people). The initial buzz that came back in 2014 is (thankfully) worn out, but now that means real applications have room to get into the field.
The cameras, sewing (which is composting all the lenses to make a 1-360 image) and editing software have evolved rapidly. The main missing element was distribution. The headsets were too heavy, too expensive and not user friendly enough for mass appeal. But now, for the first time, that is not true. There will be a stream of headsets coming to the market and people will be longing for content.
Back in the beginning, we were often asked what we thought the future of VR would look like: Would maturity subside? We have always said that we are not worried about the future of VR; we are concerned that children may not take off their headsets.