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New angles on the film industry

WITH the rapid development of technology, once-complicated techniques are no longer flights of fancy for smaller filmmakers.

Sora Media co-founder Ericson Gangoso, 35, came to Singapore in 2010 as a video editor, having previously worked in multimedia production in the Philippines.

In those early years, when a high-angle shot was required, the team had to rent out a helicopter and attach a massive gimbal or supporting frame for the camera, which cost a few thousand dollars in total.

Later, after unmanned aerial vehicles or drones came onto the scene, helicopters were no longer required. But companies still needed to obtain a permit from the Land Transport Authority and hire a person with a pilot licence to fly these drones.

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"But now ... every YouTube video has drones," notes Mr Gangoso.

The story is the same for slow motion cameras, which were very costly in the past but are now a common feature in consumer smartphones.

"The technology is so fast, you need to up your game. It's not just knowing how to frame and to focus, but you also need to change your skills," says Mr Gangoso.

On one hand, the accessibility and convenience of these features empower individuals to create professional-looking videos independently.

Yet this also drives down the value of the footage: drone and slow-motion shots are no longer special.

As a result, content creators have to continuously look for new ways to differentiate themselves from others in the industry. For Sora Media, this meant taking a leap into VR.

Yet VR cameras, too, are advancing speedily. Two years ago, companies working on VR projects had to use six GoPro cameras to capture scenery from varying angles. But just last year, a company released a camera which uses "stitching" technology to create images similar to what previously required six GoPros to capture.

According to fellow co-founder Kelly Lin, 31, the VR industry is in a "chicken and egg situation".

Some say consumer demand for VR content will drive companies to produce it. Others think companies should start producing more VR content to get consumers interested.

Sora Media takes the latter approach. Ms Lin says: "We produce content to give examples of how interesting VR can be."

Whether driven by demand or supply, the team is optimistic that VR will become increasingly popular.

"Industry experts predicted that it would be as ubiquitous as someone having a mobile phone in 2022. It's not going to replace a mobile phone, but the same way people have a phone and an iPad (now), people would walk around with a phone, iPad and VR (headsets)," she says.

Mr Gangoso expects VR to be consumed mostly by the younger generations, and for more than just film-watching purposes.

"Because VR is more interactive, it would be great with games - you can kill zombies or become a pirate."

He believes the film industry is also moving towards interactivity, citing the example of companies such as Leica and Google which have started developing "6D" cameras to create interactive movies.

With such movies, the audience can "move around" an object on the screen, looking at it from varying angles. They can also move "towards or away" from the object, with the image changing accordingly.

This is different from current VR, which pins the audience at the centre of a scene. With VR, the audience can turn around to see an object behind them, but they cannot walk around to view the object from another angle.

As technology evolves, Sora Media, too, must constantly change how it looks at the world.

Sums up Mr Gangoso: "The way we run our company has to be adaptable and flexible, because things like technology and the way people consume media changes all the time."

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