There’s a new way to experience Lockup, the MSNBC series that documents life inside America’s maximum security prisons. The prodco behind the series, 44 Blue, has now created a companion VR experience via its virtual reality arm, Ovrture.
The nine-minute short went live Nov. 12 and is available for download on iOS and Android devices (viewable with a home device like the Google Cardboard), and on Facebook and YouTube’s 360 video platforms. It consists of two segments, one from the point of view of an inmate and one from a prison officer’s perspective.
Ovrture founder Mike Drachkovitch told StreamDaily VR has serious potential in the non-fiction genre.
“Documentary really lends itself to 360 because I think viewers want to be able to feel like they’re right in the middle of something that is very much real,” said Drachkovitch.
Recent non-fiction VR projects by other publishers include the Associated Press’s recent 360 journey through a migrant camp and PBS’s documentary on the 2014 Ebola crisis.
Though VR experiences are increasingly common tools for promoting television shows and movies (such as The Hunger Games), the projects often require a lot of work for very short experiences.
The Lockup short, for instance, took only a day to shoot. (Drachkovitch said that shooting in 360 is often a quicker process than conventional shooting, because crews don’t have to re-shoot to capture multiple angles). But post-production took a full six weeks, significantly longer than conventional non-fiction post-production. Drachkovitch said the complicated VR “stitching” process can take even longer if the shots are particularly complex. With Lockup, he said, the shots were low to mid complexity.
The recently released Nightwatch VR experience, which was also created by Ovrture, saw 84,000 views on YouTube and 45,000 views on Facebook.
“For many of those viewers, that was their first introduction to VR,” said Drachkovitch, who sees the viewer numbers as a success.
He said Ovrture has several upcoming projects in the non-fiction genre that will be ready to announce shortly.
VR has yet to prove it can make money, said Drachkovitch. Ovrture is experimenting with different forms of revenue generation, including pay-per-download and subscription models for future projects. The company also sells traditional banner and preroll advertising on platforms like YouTube (YouTube recently launched VR-optimized ads).
Drachkovitch said he would also consider brand sponsorships for future VR projects, citing Reebok’s sponsored series of mini-documentaries with Vice (all in the sports genre) as an example he’d like to follow.
“I think it’s a good sign that brands see VR not just as a one-off, but as opportunities for larger, serialized content,” he said. “It’s definitely something we want to look into.”
Though Drachkovitch thinks Q1 of 2016 (when the Oculus Rift is set to hit consumer shelves) is going to be “huge” for VR, he’s also prepared for growth to be gradual, and to expect some experimentation with different subject matters and what brands are interested in VR.
“From a content standpoint, we’re preparing for that kind of steady building,” he said.