Jaunt VR have today announced they’re launching ‘Jaunt Studios’, a venture dedicated to producing immersive cinematic experiences for virtual reality. The new studio will comprise veteran movie makers from the likes of Lucasfilm, ILM and Digital Domain and it will be dedicated entirely to the production of VR related content.

If there’s one thing that characterises the nature of the VR industry right now it’s the sheer velocity of its evolution. Things are moving fast, and no where is it moving more quickly than in the field of cinematic VR experiences.

Jaunt VR is a company formed on the belief that not only that virtual reality had finally arrived, but that it would fundamentally change the entertainment industry. Last year, the company received funding totaling over $35M to build an end-to-end pipeline for producing 360 degree, stereoscopic cinematic content designed to be viewed via a VR headset. Since then, Jaunt have been prodigious in their production of cinematic VR content, releasing numerous 360 3D experiences, each aimed at a particular form or genre of entertainment.

jaunt vr paul mccartney virtual reality concert
Paul MacCartney’s “Live and Let Die” performance is one of the more successful of Jaunt’s productions

But despite early focus on the company’s proprietary 360 degree, stereoscopic camera hardware, the message early on was that Jaunt saw content as king, with hardware very much the means to an end. Today’s formation of Jaunt Studios can be seen as further reinforcement of that sentiment.

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Jaunt Studios – From Pixel to Pixel

Given the above, today’s announcement that Jaunt VR is to start its own production studio, dedicated to shooting and producing VR content is perhaps no surprise. However, the team of people Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen has brought together to run the new venture is undoubtedly impressive.

Heading up the new studio is Cliff Plumer, former CEO of effects house Digital Domain, CTO of Lucasfilm and the legendary Industrial Light & Magic. Joining Plumer as Chief Business Officer is former COO and General Counsel of Lucasfilm, David Anderman. Finally, Miles Perkins joins as VP of Marketing Communications – another Lucasfilm and ILM veteran with over 20 years service at the firm.

There are some parallels between Jaunt Studios and Lucasfilm it seems, especially when it comes to control of the creative and production pipeline – all the way from storyboard to post production. I spoke briefly with Miles Perkins prior to the launch and he describes that level of control succinctly “…from pixels to pixels.” And on that question of Jaunt’s original perception by some that it was hardware solution provider versus a content producer, Perkins is equally as succinct “You’ll never hear us call ourselves a camera company”, making it clear where the focus of the new company is. That said, Perkins states that the studio will be committed to driving improvements in their 3D 360 capture and processing technologies as the technology matures.

Meanwhile, Cliff Plumer certainly sees virtual reality as entertainment’s next disruptive technology. “The entertainment industry is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way content is created, consumed and delivered,” he says. “The next wave of innovation is upon us and it’s called VR”.

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Content is King

The first project out of the Jaunt Studios gates will be a collaboration with Condé Nast Entertainment (CNÉ), publishers of GQ, Vogue, Wired and Vanity Fair. The project comprises 2 virtual reality series focusing on CNE’s wide portfolio of travel, lifestyle, fashion, sports, and technology content. It’s not yet clear exactly what form these productions will take, be it infotainment, commercially focused or documentary. We’re promised more details on the collaboration in “…the coming months…”. Jaunt has already briefly flirted with this type of content, releasing ‘ELLE’ a short film featuring Elle “The Voice” first-runner up Jacquie Lee at a fashion shoot for the magazine.

Jaunt's ELLE Fashion Shoot
Jaunt’s ELLE Fashion Shoot

Perkins tells me that the focus for new content capture will initially be via practical photography using Jaunt’s proprietary camera technology, albeit that some projects (yet to be announced) may well utilise visual effects heavily. What this means is that, at least for the time being, is that 3D rendered experiences are not on the cards for Jaunt Studios.

Jaunt have thus far adopted a platform agnostic approach to delivering their content, with experiences available on Samsung’s Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and more recently, IOS devices. Issues remain in the area surrounding IPD and stitching artifacts however, meaning some content was perhaps not received as positively as it might.

However, we mustn’t forget that this industry is only a couple of years old and that smart minds are focused on solving these hard problems. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on what resolutions the industry find, because presenting uncomfortable experiences early on in VR’s lifecycle may well irrevocably damage the industry long term.

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Today’s announcement underlines both the breadth of virtual reality’s potential commercial uses and the extent at which different sectors of the entertainment industry really are clamouring for a piece of this most dispruptive of technology. Seeing industry stalwarts with pedigrees as good as Jaunt Studios hopefully means we’re in for a hell of a ride in the cinematic VR space.

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