VR on the Lot Confab: Will Virtual Reality Have Own Category in Hollywood?

It feels like the early days of making 'Avatar,' director Robert Stromberg says in his keynote.
Imeh Akpanudosen/WireImage
Robert Stromberg

The current state of virtual reality is reminiscent of the early days working on Avatar, said Maleficent director and Oscar-winning production designer Robert Stromberg, during his keynote at the two-day VR on the Lot conference, which wrapped Friday at Paramount.

Stromberg, who won one of his two production design Oscars for James Cameron’s epic, said that VR enthusiasts are “new pioneers with bold ideas. … We’ll move forward into the unknown.”

The innovator is a VR believer — a founder and chief creative officer of the Virtual Reality Company (VRC). “But we are still talking about a child that isn’t quite born yet,” he said of the current state of VR. “It’s still a bit early in defining what this new medium is or will become. … How long should VR experiences be? How will the world adopt it?”

Stromberg commented that while studio virtual reality productions are generally “sides” that augment a film franchise, he believes that soon VR “will have its own category” in Hollywood.

Recalling the first time he gave Steven Spielberg the headsets, Stromberg said, “Steven was so excited that he invited his grandkids and wife [Kate Capshaw]. … He said this could change the way he location scouts, for instance. He became an advisor [to VRC] and now we are one episode in to an animated family series that we’re really excited about.”

Stromberg directed The Martian VR Experience, created by Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Innovation Lab, RSA and VRC. Now, he’s working on a long-form VR narrative, and he said that involves “working to reinvent the intermission, because I do believe you need a break.”

During the conference, several exhibitors showed motion chairs, aimed at extending the use of VR headsets to venues such as movie theaters or theme parks. That included startup Positron, which demoed a prototype of its Voyager full-motion VR chair, which movies 360 degrees.

VR on the Lot was presented by the VR Society, which was formed earlier this year by the Advanced Imaging Society.