They work with the biggest and boldest agencies and renowned brands throughout the world. To VIEMR, VR is far more than just a gimmick. The company specializes in Virtual and Augmented Reality productions, campaigns and tailor made apps, for companies like Red Bull and Audi, ranging from 360 degrees rally races and extreme sports, to VR safety training and virtual therapy.
VIEMR was founded in January 2014, by Fabian Debats and and Stefan Vogelzang. “We were already working together”, Stefan explains. “We also had a lot of experience shooting 360 degrees videos, and we already knew all the right people. So we thought, why not start our own company?”
Within a year, VIEMR was already working with big brands around the world. “Of course we already knew some people, and we were working with a new technology that only a few people in the world can offer. That gave us a head start and it’s a lot easier to get your foot in the door”, Fabian says. “But before we officially launched our company, we worked very hard to get everything in order, like the website and our own app. For our portfolio, we went to Austria, to film the Red Bull Northern Alps Collective and shoot some really awesome footage.”
And then there was Oculus
In the ‘90s, the first VR hype took off, with companies like Sega and Nintendo unsuccessfully launching the first commercially available gear. Most of us forgot about the technology, but not VR gadget collector Palmer Luckey. He decided to build his own gear, using an old ski mask and fiddling away in his parents’ garage at age 18. He then launched his Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign and changed the game completely.
So now Facebook, Google, Sony and HTC have hopped on the VR bandwagon too, and virtual reality is finally being taken seriously. “When the Oculus Rift was introduced, suddenly, VR was on everyone’s radar”, Stefan explains. “And for us, it was just the perfect medium for our videos, because it’s far more interactive than just an online 360 video watched on your computer screen.”
“One of our most interesting cases was Audi, where you could virtually explore the new cockpit”, Stefan continues. “We worked on the CGI, Development for iOS and Android, 360° video, sound design, traditional video and Audi used our own VR cardboard VizR. It was also a very challenging project, since the whole project had to be completed within 6 weeks. The campaign was rolled out to over 18 countries, from Chili to Singapore!”
“What’s amazing, is just how incredibly fast VR technology is developing”, Fabian adds. “The Audi campaign, along with the app, was really high-end last year, but this year, it’s pretty much the standard. It forces you to not just keep up, but also to really think about the effect of VR, and how to take away obstacles for consumers. And it’s that kind of thinking that brought us this far. We went from a production company to a creative company, coming up with entire concepts instead of just producing video content, which is something that sets us apart from the rest.”
From Red Bull and Audi to VR therapy
Stefan and Fabian don’t think VR will replace traditional video. “But it’s also far more than a gimmick”, Stefan explains. “It’s all about the value you can add using VR, because not every narrative or concept works. Shooting those videos can be challenging, because you’re no longer directing in the old fashioned way, but you have to take the whole environment into consideration, and not just a single frame. And, more than the video, the whole campaign is important. The content, the app, the hardware, distribution and cardboard viewers, everything down to the tiniest detail really matters.”
“And clients come to us because we worry about all those tiny details”, Fabian adds. “We want to create top notch campaigns and constantly try to think of new ways to use VR, and that’s what sets us apart. What’s interesting, is that because we’re constantly reinventing ourselves as a company, we’re doing all kinds of projects, like safety training for Shell and even VR therapy for the UMCG.”
“The real power of VR is that people can be in places they normally can’t be”, Fabian continues. “It’s a POV experience, and that makes it an empathy tool, which is ideal to help people understand what goes on in other people’s heads. Storytelling is becoming increasingly important. We did projects like that to help create understanding for people with anorexia and dementia, for example.”
Next step, next level
VIEMR is currently working on different projects with the University Medical Centre Groningen, to create VR relaxation and other therapy based applications, working with people like psychiatrist Wim Veling, one of the leading researchers in the field of VR and therapy in mental healthcare. Through that platform, they’re also working with Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Director for Medical Virtual Reality Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California.
“It’s just so great we can combine our own expertise with that of academic researchers”, Stefan explains. “And come up with great ways to treat things like burnout, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or help children with autism, using VR, either with therapy, or relaxation, so that other treatments are more effective. These are the type of projects we really want to be doing.”
Behind the scenes, VIEMR is also very busy with Augmented Reality. Fabian: “AR is going to be a revolution and we’ll see some great things within the next year and a half. That’s why we’re already coming up with ways to use it, so that when it’s widely adopted in the near future, we can already implement it. We don’t know where we’ll be in two years, and that’s really what we love about this work; the fast changing technology, the need to adapt really fast and just exploring and discovering new possibilities.”