Scott Lynch is the Head of VR Development at Chicago-based VOYRE, a VR video production company. Tywen Kelly, our resident XR evangelist, sat down with him to discuss his experience as a leading VR video producer and how he leverages SPIN Studio Pro to bring his experiences to life. Scott has worked in the film industry for 16 years, with a background in both technical and creative production. His work has won 6 regional Emmy awards and helped develop the ACES color system. Since 2018, Scott has been devoted full-time to VOYRE, producing immersive VR video for a range of clients in corporate industries, entertainment, and non-profit.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Did you have a VR epiphany that made you dive into the medium?
I used to go out to NAB every year. In 2013 the Oculus DK1 had just been released, and I was visiting the RED Camera booth where a company was showing off a 180 stereo video. They had used two REDs with fisheye lenses to record a hockey game, which I watched in the DK1.
What really impressed me was that it made me go, “Woah, this is like being somewhere.” For me, being somewhere is a different experience than watching something.
I realized that this was what I had been trying to do with video for most of my career: to recreate what something felt like. Early in my career, one of the goals I always had — with the way I operated cameras and with the way I used to edit — was to try and get across the sense of what it was like to have attended that thing or to have been in that place. With VR it seemed like it was the medium I had been waiting for but didn’t know I was looking for.
And why choose VR video specifically?
Getting into 360° video for me was a natural entry point [into VR]. I had the background: I already knew how to composite, rotoscope, and I knew how cameras worked. 360° video was the natural way for me to immediately jump in and start doing work in a field when there was not a lot of support or tools at the time.
Scott Lynch shooting with the Kandao Obsidian S for a project with Panasonic to showcase prototype smartcar technology.
What sort of VR work is being asked of you today?
On the corporate side, we’ve found that when somebody has an experience that is hard to show outside of being there in person, then that’s a good sell for VR.
We did a piece for Panasonic which included prototype smart car technology that they wanted to show a lot of people. But they only had one of these cars and it would be really inefficient to take people one or two at a time and run them through a series of things that the car does. Using a VR camera, we captured that experience once and edited it together into a 2.5-minute experience. Now, they can just give somebody a headset [to experience the car]. The ROI on that made a lot of sense. They don’t have to have a bunch of engineers there to make sure the car is working properly and set it up for specific scenarios. They just had to set it up once.
The ask is evolving. Companies initially wanted “traditional video but done in 360°”. Now, I’m starting to see the interest shift towards more interactive, choose-your-own-adventure types of content.
Some people want to blow through information and some people want to read every single thing. It’s like in a museum, some people just want to walk through it and get a general sense of art, but some people want to go and read every single plaque. I think that’s really one of the major benefits of virtual technology. It’s that we can start providing content for people that they can take in at their own pace.
How do you pitch VR to potential clients?
What has really proven to be the most useful is becoming an evangelist for VR in a general sense. I find that we’ve had the most success by showing the client the content. Essentially we set up a Lunch & Learn type of event. I meet with a lot of agencies and other production companies and we’ll set up in a conference room and hand around some headsets. We’ll give everyone a sense of what is possible in VR by just having them watch the content in-headset.
How do people react to watching your VR experiences?
People are interested in VR. They might have seen something in a Google Cardboard. But when we hand them an Oculus Go that’s generally the first time they’ve seen real, well-produced content. Usually, that’s the biggest hurdle: getting them in the room and putting on a headset. Once they do that, they’re like, “Oh, I get it. I see how this could work for my business.” I really find that the initial in-person process has been really helpful, and really has been a key driver of us getting clients on board.
We find that to be true too. Also, I don’t think a lot of people know that VR is practical now, today. They think of it as a far-off thing.
Right, I think one of the other misconceptions is what the costs really are. There is a poor awareness overall of the lower-cost solutions that exist, like the Oculus Go. When VR first came out, when the buzz was really hot like in 2016, it meant you had to have a $1,500 gaming PC and a $500 headset that was tethered. For a lot of people that was their first impression of what VR was. They didn’t get the follow-up message that there are easy-to-use low-cost solutions that can be deployed at scale.
How has Pixvana changed your workflow?
I’ve found Pixvana to be one of the simplest and cleanest ways to show people our content inside of a headset. Initially, before we had a good solution, I used to have to upload videos to Dropbox, then get on a video chat with an IT guy to help them sideload a video, then they’d have to make sure it was working, and then tell them to go to Oculus Gallery, press play, hold over the sensor, then hand it to somebody who didn’t know how to use the controller. It usually became this whole thing.
It was one of those small barriers that when people feel that something is a pain in the butt, then it’s hard for them to get really excited by it. It dampers that enthusiasm when you have to go through all this stuff just to watch the thing.
Now part of our workflow for a project is that we will often buy a Go for a client, we’ll load Pixvana SPIN Play, sync it to our account, ship it to them, then I can make a custom page for them and throw up their logo and a nice background still from their project. When they load Pixvana SPIN Play they have this branded version of the player, just for them, and they feel like it’s custom. That little thing helps the customer understand that this is a custom thing and it helps justify some of the cost. They feel like they’re in good hands.
You are also a user of the Pixvana’s Creator tool to make interactive experiences, can you speak to that?
The interactive stuff has been really cool. I find it really easy to use. This summer I am just beginning to dip my toe into Unity. I have very little programming background. Right now I couldn’t make an interactive piece in Unity for a client, but with SPIN Studio’s Ingenic Creator it is really simple. If you can use one of the paint tools on the Oculus then you can definitely use the Creator.
Thanks for talking with us Scott. Do you have any closing remarks?
I really do believe in the power of VR and I do believe it is a new medium that, over time, is going to dramatically change how we interact. One of the things I like to say is that VR democratizes experience in a way that’s never been possible before. That is a really powerful thing to give people. On the dark side, it could be used to manipulate people in a very unsavory way. On the upside, the ability to give every single person access to the same types of experiences I think is going to be revolutionary. That’s really where the groundbreaking value of virtual reality lies.
This technology, as it evolves, is going to be critical to the world as a global unit to enable us to work better and less as a collection of isolated, nationalist groups. I do believe it will bring about a more global understanding of where other people are coming from. The internet and smartphones helped democratize the access to information, and now we’ll be able to democratize access to experiences. That’s the next step of this whole information age, if you will. I’m very very positive on the whole thing.