“Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” forum in Beijing

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 audience 1
The opening of the “Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” forum in Beijing on December 12th, 2015.

On the weekend of December 12th & 13th, the Beijing Film Academy, the China Animation Association, and the International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center presented a forum on “Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” at the BUPT Hotel in Beijing, featuring a distinguished group of 30 international speakers from greater China and overseas, and enjoyed by a select audience of Chinese industry professionals and graduate students.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 participants

The creator’s toolbox has never been more powerful than it is today, with rapid advances in digital, stereoscopic & virtual reality technology, and compelling content options.  Yet challenges and questions abound on the cusp of this new entertainment era.  What will the content of tomorrow look like?  How will it be distributed?  Can virtual reality go mainstream?  What hurdles still exist?  How must directors and producers adapt for immersive media?  What does the future hold?

The mission of the Beijing Film Academy’s International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center (iAVRrc) is to advance the art of animated and cinematic storytelling in China.  Through events such as “Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality”, the iAVRrc provides a forum for the exchange of ideas, approaches & techniques between international experts and Chinese talent.  Over the course of the weekend, the “Future Trends” forum featured keynote addresses, panel discussions and roundtable sessions on topics pertinent to immersive media, including: the evolution of the technology, content considerations, educational requirements, changing production paradigms, new business & distribution models, and social impact.


DAY ONE (December 12th, 2015)


Welcome & Introductions

Sun Lijun, Vice Dean of the Beijing Film Academy, addressed the assembly with warm words of welcome.  Professor Sun expressed his appreciation for the gathering of so many international experts at the “Future Trends” forum, and voiced his hopes for future cooperation and collaboration between foreign and Chinese talent.

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Sun Lijun, Vice Dean, Beijing Film Academy

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 SUN Lijun

Kevin Geiger, Executive Director of the Beijing Film Academy’s new International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center, welcomed the audience to the iAVRrc’s inaugural event, and introduced the forum’s speakers.  Geiger noted the increasing number of experienced animation & visual effects professionals who are being drawn to the experimental “white space” of immersive media.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Kevin Geiger 1
Kevin Geiger, Executive Director, International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center, Beijing Film Academy

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iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 audience 2


Opening Keynote Addresses

Raymond Pao, Vice President of New Technology at HTC in Taipei, presented a keynote address highlighting HTC’s high-end Vive VR head-mounted display and Lighthouse tracking system.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote Raymond Pao
Raymond Pao, Vice President of New Technology, HTC

Percy Fung, Founder & Director of Digital Magic in Hong Kong, presented an informative keynote charting his directorial path through large-format films, high-resolution digital production and  immersive media over the past 40 years.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote Percy Fung
Percy Fung, Founder & Director, Digital Magic

Lunch

Group lunches and coffee breaks provided forum speakers and audience members with opportunities to mingle and network throughout the weekend.

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Forum co-host Nikk Mitchell, Co-Founder & CEO of VR-China.com, did a fantastic job as bilingual panel moderator during two days of lively sessions.  

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Nikk Mitchell 1
Nikk Mitchell, Co-Founder & CEO, VR-China.com

Day One’s panels included…


Panel Session: How is VR technology evolving?

Discussion ranged from the capabilities and limitations of today’s virtual reality gear to the possibilities of tomorrow’s tech – including VR nanobot pills that engage our senses neurally.

Panelists (L to R):

  1. Jerry Ge, Research Vice-President, Analysys
  2. Tim Zhang, Founder & CEO, Ling VR
  3. Raymond Pao, Vice President of New Technology, HTC
  4. Nikk Mitchell, moderator
  5. Mike Woods, Founder & CCO, White Rabbit Ventures
  6. Gabriel Diaz, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  7. Kevin Geiger, Executive Director, International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center, Beijing Film Academy

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 technology panel


Panel Session: How does VR change content development & production?

While the panelists agreed that storytelling is key, they debated if and how the concept of “story” must evolve in order to present compelling immersive experiences in virtual reality.  One thing is clear: we’re not there yet.

Panelists (L to R):

  1. Bobby Sun, CCO & Director, Beijing LetinVR Digital Technology
  2. Toony Wu, Founder & CPO, DreamSpace Media
  3. Chuck Williams, Head of Development, Marza Animation Planet
  4. Nikk Mitchell, moderator
  5. Percy Fung, Founder & Director, Digital Magic
  6. Corey Smith, Manager of Production Technology, Disney Consumer Products & Interactive Labs
  7. Jan Heinze, COO & Executive Producer, Pixomondo China

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 content panel 1

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 content panel 2
Chuck Williams, Head of Development, Marza Animation Planet
iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Toony Wu
Toony Wu, Founder & CPO, DreamSpace Media
iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Corey Smith
Corey Smith, Manager of Production Technology, Disney Consumer Products & Interactive Labs

Panel Session: What changes are required in education for immersive media?

Among other things, the panel discussed how we need to develop a new grammar of 3D interactive storytelling.  Given the newness of the medium, educating tomorrow’s storytellers may be a process of collective discovery rather than traditional pedagogy.

Panelists (L to R):

  1. Christopher Colman, China Correspondent, Animation World Network
  2. Ric Luo, Co-Founder, Ress Immersive Interactive
  3. Yi Yan, Co-Founder, Magic Dumpling Entertainment
  4. Nikk Mitchell, moderator
  5. Michael Scroggins, Computer Animaton Lab Director, California Institute of the Arts
  6. Shelley Page, Head of International Outreach, DreamWorks Animation
  7. Andy Deck, Artist, School of Visual Arts

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 education panel 1

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Chris Colman
Christopher Colman, China Correspondent, Animation World Network
iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Yi Yan
Yi Yan, Co-Founder, Magic Dumpling Entertainment
iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Michael Scroggins
Michael Scroggins, Computer Animation Lab Director, California Institute of the Arts

DAY TWO (December 13th, 2015)


BFA Digital Media Update, iAVRrc Introduction

Beijing Film Academy faculty Ye Feng gave a presentation on virtual reality and new media initiatives, including the Beijing Film Academy’s forthcoming Digital Media School.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote YE Feng
Beijing Film Academy faculty Ye Feng announces the BFA’s new Digital Media School.

Kevin Geiger, Executive Director of the Beijing Film Academy’s new International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center, introduced the iAVRrc’s mission, vision, operational model and funding paradigm.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote Kevin Geiger
Kevin Geiger outlines the iAVRrc’s structure and support.

Opening Keynote Addresses

Tim Zhang, Founder & CEO of China-based Ling VR, gave a keynote presentation on opportunities and challenges in the virtual reality market, and previewed Ling VR’s upcoming all-in-one VR head-mounted display & controller.  Ling VR also graciously gifted the forum panelists with their Xiao Bai (“Little White”) mobile VR headset.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote Tim Zhang
Tim Zhang, Founder & CEO, Ling VR.

Disney animation master Nik Ranieri, now Animation Director at Reload Studios, delivered an entertaining keynote on his career arc from traditional animation through 3D CGI to virtual reality, capped by a sneak peek at Reload’s wacky WORLD WAR TOON animated VR short.  The cartoon of Hades in a head-mounted display was a clever encapsulation of Nik’s creative journey.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 keynote Nik Ranieri
Nik Ranieri, Animation Director, Reload Studios
Shot with DxO ONE
Nik Ranieri reunited with fellow Walt Disney Feature Animation CHICKEN LITTLE alumni, Kevin Geiger and Corey Smith, who worked with Nik on his first 3D CGI character.

Day Two’s panels included…


Panel Session: What changes are taking place in immersive VFX?

The panelists characterized VR as the latest element in an ever-evolving VFX toolset, noting that getting directors comfortable with new technology remains the continual challenge.  Will time-based 3D scans of sets & actors replace today’s digital cameras?  One thing is for certain: overtime is here to stay.

Panelists (L to R):

  1. Aaron Zhou, Animation Director & Lead Producer, Big Big Sun Creative & Development Ltd.
  2. Liu Yu Shu, Founder & Director, Animaze Studio
  3. Jan Heinze, COO & Executive Producer, Pixomondo China
  4. Nikk Mitchell, moderator
  5. John Dietz, Founder & Producer, BangBang
  6. Gavin Boyle, Director of Previsualisation, Base FX
  7. Charles Wang, Director of Movie Virtual Production Lab, Beijing Film Academy

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 vfx panel

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Jan Heinze
Jan Heinze, COO & Executive Producer, Pixomondo China

Panel Session: Will VR make us more social or less social?

The forum’s liveliest session began with a prediction that in the future, we will be unable to tell whether our online VR interactions are with a person or with an artificial intelligence.  The conversation only got more entertaining from there.  We may never experience the virtual social circus of tomorrow, but our digital avatars will… perhaps on Facebook.

Panelists (L to R):

  1. Qiu Jiaqiu, Director, Caixin Media Company Limited
  2. Tyler Nilsson, Co-founder & Director, Coal Car Studio
  3. Weng Dongdong, Associate Professor, Beijing Institute of Technology
  4. Nikk Mitchell, moderator
  5. Flip Phillips, Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Skidmore College
  6. Shane Nilsson, Co-founder & Director, Coal Car Studio
  7. Tanja Barnes, Community Manager, Roundme, Verdom IT Projects

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 social panel 1

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 social panel 2

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Flip Phillips
Flip Phillips, Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Skidmore College

Kevin Geiger


Roundtable Discussion: What new business models make arise for VR, AR & MR?

To cap off the forum, the audience was excused, and our panelists were seated in a circle around a VR camera.  A roundtable discussion of future virtual reality business models ensued (minus table), with portions filmed in 360 video.

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Dinner

Dinners were a relaxing way to conclude each long day and toast a successful forum.  Beijing Film Academy Vice Dean Sun Lijun presented forum panelists with honorary Guest Professor certificates.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 Raymond Pao
HTC VP of New Technology Raymond Pao receives his honorary Guest Professor certificate from Sun Lijun, Vice Dean of the Beijing Film Academy.
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Forum co-host Nikk Mitchell is recognized for his service by Professor Sun.
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White Rabbit Ventures CCO Mike Woods is among those invited back as an honorary Guest Professor of the Beijing Film Academy.

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Thanks to…

Remarkably, the “Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” forum was put together in just one month from idea to event.  While this fast pace is typical of China, it would have not been possible without the steadfast efforts of the forum’s organizers and student volunteers, some of whom are pictured below.

iAVRrc forum Dec 2015 organizers
Forum organizers Zuo Yan, Kevin Geiger, Liliang Li, and Wen Feng (with forum mascot Claire Skye).
Some of the many hardworking student volunteers.
Some of the many hardworking student volunteers.
“Future Trends In Stereoscopic Filmmaking & Virtual Reality” forum in Beijing

VR market ecosystem

VR ecosystem

Chris McCann of Greylock Partners posted a great primer on the VR market ecosystem (circa July 2015) on Medium.com, covering VR devices & controllers, VR cameras, developer tools, content, platforms and applications.

The body of Chris’ post includes more companies than are featured in the graphic above.  As Chris notes, his list is biased towards startups and companies that have raised funding.  The list is also biased towards the West, and therefore does not cover the burgeoning VR market in China and Asia.

Sure to have evolved by the time you read this.

 

VR market ecosystem