At first, it was all about exposure. Now, it’s time for virtual reality (VR) artists to actually make some money, said Kaleidoscope VR co-founder and CEO Rene Pinnell during a recent interview with Variety. That’s why his company has now teamed up with 1stAvemachine to connect VR artists with brands looking to tell stories in the new medium.
San Francisco-based Kaleidoscope VR got its start by organizing VR film festivals all around the world, including in London, Tokyo, Berlin and Melbourne, with the idea of giving creatives like Tyler Hurd a way to reach a broader audience before headsets had reached a mass market.
But in recent months, VR artists have been getting many more opportunities to show their works. Not only has Samsung sold more than 5 million of its Gear VR headsets, VR has also become part of more traditional events previously reserved for traditional motion pictures, including Sundance and Tribeca. “Festivals started doing an amazing job for VR,” Pinnell said.
At the same time, there’s been a big jump on the technology side. No longer do artists have to rely on jerry-rigged headsets assembled with duct tape, said Pinnell. “We’ve gone from something that was basically unusable to something that is magical.”
What’s been missing from the equation is a way for artists to actually make a living. The audience, while growing, is still relatively small, and monetization models like subscriptions have yet to take off. That’s especially true for smaller studios. Shops with a handful of employees, or maybe even truly independent artists producing VR films out of their bedrooms. “Until the consumer market really explodes, they are in a precarious position,” argued Pinnell. “For these folks, it’s really scary.”
That’s why Kaleidoscope has been switching gears to help artists find funding for their works, and also get them in conversations with brands, which is where 1stAveMachine comes in. The production company with offices in Los Angeles, New York and London has been dipping its feet in the water to produce VR films and experiences in recent months, including with a project for Samsung.
1stAve quickly learned that brands are thirsty for VR, said Partner and Executive Producer Sam Penfield. “There is really nobody you have to sell VR to. Everybody wants to do it.” And many of the aren’t just looking to check another box, but actually want to learn about the new medium and its possibilities. “A lot of people I deal with are really thirsty for knowledge,” she said. “I’m learning alongside of my clients.”
Together, the two companies now want to help artists get paid gigs, and give brands access to some of the leading creatives in this space. “Our main goal is to make the most interesting work in advertising,” said Penfield.
First results of that partnership will come to headsets in the coming months, and maybe also once again to film festivals. Location-based VR, as well as wider exposure via 360-degree videos on Facebook and YouTube, will be key before headset sales truly pick up, argued Pinnell. “We are going to see a lot of blended strategies.”