MOFILM Texas Panel 2016: Next Generation Video Creation and Consumption


TL:DR version

  • Be careful about creating content to fit a new technology, rather than finding technology that fits your content.
  • Don’t let VR and 360° distract from the purpose of your content, it may not be what your film needs.
  • Remember to check out the legislation before using a drone and to be sure the awesome 360° film you’ve created doesn’t make your audience experience motion sickness – learn from other’s mistakes!



Continuing MOFILM’s mission to bring you cutting edge panel discussions from technology and industry leaders, on March 14th 2016, during the ever incredible SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, we presented a panel discussing the Next Generation Video Creation and Consumption.

Joining MOFILM’s Jon Ratcliffe was Jon Landau, producer of Avatar and Titanic; Michael Shabun, Marketing Manager at DJI; and Andy Stack, Former Head of Creator Technology at YouTube.

The 30 minute panel, available to view in its entirety above, kicked off with a point from Jon Landau best illustrated with his surfing analogy, “if you’re ahead of the wave, you’ll catch the wave and that wave will take you for a long ride. But if you’re on top of the wave you could fall down the backside and miss the wave”. So, rather than create a story (or campaign) for the technology, create stories you want to tell and look for the technologies that enable you to do that.

Michael offered insight into the exciting prospects that drones provide for filmmakers and creators thanks to them now being easier to use, pretty cheap and more powerful than ever before – quite a triple threat. With autonomous or semi-autonomous drones that can mimic what a cinematographer would do, creators can prepare for an impact on budgets, crew and efficiency as producers can redistribute money elsewhere.

Andy told us all about Virtual Reality, which dominated at SXSW 2016. The launch of 360° video on YouTube means that non-linear stories, quite unlike those we’re used to, are an option for those who want to create experiences. As with Landau’s point above, resetting existing linear stories doesn’t work well but, just like drones, the costs are coming down and creating in this format is getting easier.

Landau countered that 360° video can be the complete opposite of a narrative story – directors want to compose a shot to tell you where to look, so you don’t miss a subtle moment – and it’s an ancillary opportunity.

Andy illustrated his point with Specular Theory, a studio that has created a series called Perspectives, where you can switch between characters and perspectives. For example, they created a film with two black brothers and two police officers where there is a confrontation and one of the brothers is shot. This type of technology allows the viewer to experience the story from many different angles and this can add to the story as you take in the reasoning behind each characters actions and this simply isn’t something that you can do with linear video.

Back to drones and their capabilities… Michael explained that the applications are essentially limitless. You can fly a drone over an active volcano head (somewhere helicopters just can’t fly), Search and Rescue teams can use them to get equipment to hard to reach places and save lives, you can monitor crops…

There is of course a lot of grey areas in terms of legislation. MOFILM’s drone films for Emirates were made just as countries were creating their laws for the use of drones and there still isn’t a lot of general knowledge regarding where it might be illegal to film, the obvious example being the news story about a DJI drone flying over the White House. This technology will however no doubt revolutionize the whole world.

With 360° filming, legislation isn’t as much of an issue so much as discovering how to apply the technology without making your viewer experience motion sickness.

Closing thoughts from Landau: Get out there and do, there is so much accessible, up to date technology out there to use and create for the audience you’ve defined. Where art is concerned, failure has to be an option – be defined as much by your failure as your success. Andy echoed his sentiments: Creators should take risk, great art comes from it, but tech is a means to an end and never lose track of what you are trying to create.


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