I have been busy for the last few months trying to keep myself updated regarding what is happening in the VR and AR world and keeping myself up to date regarding all the work being done and learning SDKs. I thought it would be useful to everyone if I made a list of all the companies (Technical and creative) that are targeting the VR film making market. I have met almost all of these companies in several VR conferences. Note : All the images below belong to the respective companies and all the information in this post is my personal view. So here they are :
1) Prologue Films : Well I work here as a VR Technical Director (Yes this is a new title in the VFX industry now !) , this company specializes in creating VFX for VR as well as amazing UI development, with their prior experience of creating UI in Iron man, Prometheus, CGI in Destiny game cinematics and many more blockbuster Hollywood films, this company with their amazing crew of designers are making a significant impact in 360 film-making and VR.
2) Oculus Story Studio : Oculus Story Studio is an in-house venture by Oculus that wants to create the rules of 360 film-making. They want to be the PIXAR of 360 film-making ! As far as I know, they are working on interactive story telling (With positional tracking) rather than creating Pre-rendered content. I had met Saschka Unseld at the Oculus connect event who is one of the main directors in Oculus Story studio during which he explained the need for creative rules in this new format and the whole team is working hard in experimenting.
3) Frame store : Framestore is probably the leading company right now with some of the big names under its credit, they did VR experiences for Interstellar, Game of thrones and have worked with some really good advertising brands. They seem to have a huge dedicated team for VR and are working on real time game engine based content as well as Pre-rendered content. Framestore is probably the only company I don’t see at VR meet-ups or conferences and they also don’t share their demos, so its hard to know how their content is, but I am pretty sure they are creating some beautiful content because all it takes is a lens shader for a well known VFX company to create 360 pre-rendered content. I also doubt that their content might need extremely good high end CPU+GPU combination to watch their real time demos.
4) Next VR : Next VR has a huge advantage than other companies in this list because they have technology for real time broadcast which is truly amazing ! Kudos to the NextVR team for achieving this. From what I know, they have a bunch of RED dragon cameras ( I told you it was broadcast quality !!! ) covering 360 stereo space and then they are stitching them in real time and broadcasting the content live ! I am not sure how much delay they might have but the fact that all this is happening live is truly amazing. I am very much excited for this company and I am glad they have 27 patents for their many years of hard work that went into creating this tech.
5) Jaunt VR : Jaunt VR is the only company dominating mobile app stores right now and the one with the highest number of demos available for download. They are a very well funded company that started in early 2014 and are planning to be the company which provides 360 VFX solutions for film-makers or film-making companies. They have a great team of engineers working on stitching algorithms , optical systems, stereo 360 cameras , spatial sound and every possible engineering object that is needed in the pipeline. This is not a content creating company and they work with other studios like New deal studios in creating content. This company is concentrating heavily on pre-rendered or camera captured content and are not working on any positional tracking/ Interactive content, which makes me think whether sticking to pre-rendered content is a good idea. I am not sure if parallax is a necessity and I am curious to know how the market reacts. Recently at VRLA, when asked about the need for interactivity, Jaunt said that pre-rendered content can be used for advertising, travel planning, sports and other areas and not just film-making. So there is indeed a big market !
6) We VR : Another company that is similar to Jaunt is WE VR. Both the companies do almost the same thing except for the fact that they are about 315 miles apart , one is in Venice and the other in Palo alto( Just kidding ! ) WE VR also develops technology for 360 film making and of-course they will have their own algorithms that are different from Jaunt and that is where the competition stiffens! But WE VR is also concentrating on game engine based content. In fact, WE VR is so excited about the fact that they have launched a 1 million $ grant program for VR. http://wevr.com/wevr-launches-1m-vr-grant-program.
7) New deal studios : This studio has a good selling point in VR film making, because prior to VR they were a studio that specialized in miniature models and they have an enthusiastic team of VR creators who worked with jaunt recently and created some great content. Creating live action sets for 360 film making is expensive and lighting always seems so complicated. This is where New deal studios can help others, with miniature models its easy to plan and shoot and then superimpose VFX on top of the live action plates. Oh yeah they created the models in “Interstellar” movie as well and yes they won an Oscar for it ! Great to have them in VR.
8) X-rez studios : This is a fantastic company based in Santa-Monica and for a long time the founders here have been working on full dome photography and also have been experimenting with plenty of computational photography tricks. I was amazed when I heard the places that xRez has traveled all around the world. And with all their experience in full dome photography, they have created master pieces for VR, if there is a “Planet earth for VR” then Xrez is the most experienced company in showing the earth at its best ! Not just that, if they can shoot the earth at its best, they have a team that can shoot and stitch anything at its best. They also function as technology advisors for other companies that want to shoot in 360 and yes they have their own camera rigs for this.The below is a screenshot from one of their VR demos.
9) Psyop : This company is actually right in front of my company and I recently got to know that even they had created content for VR, check out the link. They worked with Samsung in creating a demo that ships with the Gear VR headset, that’s a good start ! They do VFX for film making and hence VR as well.
10) Immersive media : Immersive media started way back in 2004 by creating a 360 degree full camera system, that’s when they jumped into 360. Now they have a content sharing store in the Oculus Store. They work on content creation, streaming 360 content, engineering technology and distribution of content. After all, distribution of VR content is such an important thing and that is why Immersive media is working on it. They have their own custom cameras, Post production tools, mobile apps for content creation and from what I have seen, they have all the technology needed for 360 film making. They can be considered as a combination of Next VR + Jaunt + WEVR.
11) VRSE works : This is a content creation company that concentrates on both pre-rendered/live-action and interactive experiences. They can be seen as one of the major collaborators in the industry right now, working with the all these creators http://vrse.works/creators/. They have showcased some great demos so far and are experimenting many new things, I think they are in the right path because its with experimentation that we can create some of the best experiences and they often deliver something unique all the time.
12) Condition -one : This is the first company that I met with that was doing 360 films, in fact it was the only company I knew in VR when I was doing my masters in UPenn. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them creating any new content recently. They had one demo that got good press attention and then all the excitement faded away. They have an in-house pipeline, image stitching algorithms and a great team of creators who are from Dreamworks. I look forward to seeing content from them in the future!
13) Nozon : This company has made me think quiet a lot about them in 2015 !! They claim to have developed a technology that provides pre-rendered interactivity. When I heard that, well when I heard that I did not know what to do but google about it…ha ha ! They said they would license their technology but they have been silent about it so far. Some reddit threads discuss that they are using light fields and capture all possible incident rays at a point and store large amounts of data that are cleverly retrieved in real time, but there are also rumors that say this works when the frames are still and when there is animation it does not work so well, I assume its because of large bandwidth requirements. Anyways, this is a VFX company that mainly does advertisements and have developed the most needed technology which is not yet in the market. But this is what 360 films need, a high quality pre-rendered content which parallax!
So these are the companies in the VR film making space, if I have missed any, please leave a comment below and I will add them to this list and it would be great to have a list of all of them at one place. After all, if this industry needs to grow then all the companies with their strengths need to come forward and work together in creating content that would blow everyone’s imagination. Yes, there is a huge gaming market and there are plenty of companies doing games, but here we want to share stories that are meant for VR, documentaries that are waiting to be told in VR, sports that are to be watched in VR, so let us work together in creating them!