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Fears brew that virtual reality TV may follow the 3D curve

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Fears brew that virtual reality TV may follow the 3D curve

Virtualreality took on roller coastersand e-commerce thisyear and is being touted as the next major frontier for the TV industry.However, VR TV will require greater levels of investment if it wishes to avoidthe fate of 3D technology, panelists warned April 3 at MIPDoc, a pre-MIPTVevent in the south of France.

AnthonyGeffen, CEO and creative director at Atlantic Productions, told those who hadarrived early in Cannes that "the real worry about VR is that it willfollow the 3D curve … and suddenly by October we'll be wondering what happenedto VR, because there weren't enough good experiences."

The2009 premiere of James Cameron's sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar" appearedto herald significant advances in 3D technology. However, the number of 3D-enabled movies keeps plummeting. Though much ofthe industry is still giddy with VR, there are now realconcerns that it could be on a strikingly similar path to 3D as it faces anumber of hurdles to its uptake.

SNL ImageThe panel at MIPDoc

Source: SNL Kagan

Fora start, VR is still in the early stages of development as a TV medium and itscommercial success has yet to transpire.

Geffenpointed out that potential VR TV entrants are hesitant given the widespreadfunding challenges and high technical expertise required to adopt and roll outhigh quality VR experiences.

"[VR]is a weird and wonderful world but … there is a concern about where all thismight lead," Geffen told the delegates.

Evenbroadcasting giants like the BBCstill have some kinks to iron out, he said, adding that the sooner the likes ofthe BBC get out of the R&D stage and into commissioning, the better itwould be for VR. Geffen did stress Skyjust launched its VR studio a month ago.

Itcomes as no surprise that the VR TV's state of infancy means there is stillnowhere near enough VR content to make an impact beyond one or two-minute 360videos.

Geffenassured the audiences that "what we need, [in order to] get this thingalive, is longer stories … audiences want a proper story in this medium."

Atthe same time, the sense of urgency to get the VR ball rolling is offset byfears of an overheated market. Following high profile virtualreality M&A deals like Facebook's$2 billion acquisition of VR gear developer OculusVR Inc. in 2014, venture capital money has into VR. In February this year, augmented and virtualreality startup Magic Leap Inc. raised$793.5 million from a lineup of investors including ecommerce giant and 's Warner Bros.

WolfgangBergmann, managing director of the German unit of Franco-German TV networkARTE, suggested that the industry should slow down.

"Weare on page one, two or three of probably a very big book," cautionedBergmann, explaining that he thinks "we are at a stage where we [need]time to think, time to experiment, time to learn."

Infact, Bergmann appeared to be the most skeptical of the panelists that VR would go mainstream in the TVindustry in the near future.

Meanwhile,education and training is still a major obstacle for VR, too.

ThomasWallner, founder and CEO of Canadian cinematic VR specialist DEEP elaborated onthe huge technical challenges faced by the TV industry when it comes toadopting VR as a medium.

Despitea strong interest in this space, the evolution of the VR medium has been slowbecause filmmakers and broadcasters are "sorely lacking" the tools totruly harness its unique set of features, Wallner shared with the crowd.

SNL ImageSource: SNL Kagan

"Thelearning curve is a little bit steep," he said.

Ontop of that, the inability to democratize the process of shooting in 360 videois the reason there is "a lot of bad 360 content," Wallner added.

As aresult, greater collaboration across industries as well as skill sets will berequired to fill the technical gap in VR TV, the panelists agreed.

"Wehave to bring people from different backgrounds to collaborate together so thestoryteller can understand the possibilities of this incredibly excitingmedium," Geffen summarized.