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What will the film industry gain through immersive technology?

Insiders of the film industry predict that ‘pure film’ approach will face competition from immersive technology, which will give rise to a more advanced entertainment form.

Mark Hocker, managing director of Johannesburg company The Boiler Room Productions, elaborates that considerable developments are yet to be witnessed in respect to the contribution of immersive technology to the TV and film industries.

Hocker, born in Australia, played an important part in introducing South Africa to 3D animation during his resettlement there in the 90s. He was responsible for creating content, offering training to M-Net and SABC, and setting up countrywide systems.

Following other significant contributions to the domain of 3D animation, he made the switch to VR development. He started consultations with gifted programmers, offered training and led efforts to release several revolutionary products.

Hocker goes on to explain that immersive reality is the sole output instrument of VR, elaborating that VR apps on his phone can provide immersive simulations and exploration experiences. Hocker’s team is currently crafting motion-control mechanisms that will replace rides like those in the Ratanga Junction amusement park in Cape Town. According to Hocker, such a VR experience is so realistic that participants might feel like they have been teleported.

Hocker further stresses that VR is going beyond just an entertainment technology, as production and training industries are building dependence on it. He reveals that Sandvik, the world’s largest mining equipment maker, is creating a VR simulation to deliver intensive first-hand equipment experiences, including checks and maintenance drills.

Another example exhibited by Hocker is of a sand mine located at Richards Bay, which is an expansive industrial area on the Indian Ocean coast. He explains that the area’s animation model is based on drone videos and images, making it an accurate digital replica. The explorable model has relevant equipment and key locations that reveal vital task-based and safety-related information, thus creating a vital training mechanism.

Hocker explains that safety is crucial in industries like mining and that immersive technology along with VR is speeding up and enhancing training methods. The quality of learning is also better. Hocker is a firm believer that the same technology can be utilised in the domains of broadcasting and production.

To offer more clarity regarding his predictions, he mentions yet another example involving an OB vehicle. The van’s CAD model, including switches, routers and all equipment, can be utilised to familiarise people with operations. According to him, it is also possible to create mechanisms to train people regarding maintenance, repair, and store equipment.

Regarding the use of VR in the field of live entertainment, Hocker explains that virtual models can familiarise crew professionals with a venue before the start of a broadcast. He highlights that immersive technology like VR can be used to observe and select locations, without anyone having to travel.

Hocker believes that VR is not a future concept, but a presently viable tool for training and development across different domains including the film industry.

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