#09 China’s growing VR industry - SupChina

#09 China’s growing VR industry

Virtual reality (VR) is a new medium that many a technology guru has predicted will revolutionize cinema—or would, if it weren’t for the pesky problem (among others) that VR interface still requires the viewer to wear what essentially amounts to a “head box.” Nevertheless, VR markets around the world are slowly but surely expanding. Many of the major film festivals (Sundance, Venice, and Cannes, to name a few) now feature a special VR section. Overall the industry is indeed growing—especially in China. For context, here are some key figures:

  • The value of China’s VR market in 2016 was around USD $500 million (mainly hardware).
  • The value of China’s film market in 2016 war around USD $6.9 billion.
  • The value of China’s film market in 2020 is projected to be USD $10 billion.
  • The value of China’s VR market in 2020 is projected to be USD $6.5 billion (half in hardware, and the rest split between games, films, enterprise applications, theme parks, etc.).

许多科技大牛认为虚拟现实这种新媒体将取代电影;但是它本身还有很多问题待解决,其中最主要的是,我们观看VR内容的时候,头上还得戴着一个“盒子”,要不然大家都去看VR作品了。现在,电影节(圣丹斯,威尼斯,戛纳)已经有了VR单元,这个行业一直在壮大,特别是在中国。

下面给出一些比较数据:

2016年,中国VR市场规模是5亿美元(主要来自设备)

2016年,中国电影市场规模69亿美元。

2020年,中国电影市场规模将会达到100亿美元。

2020年,中国VR市场规模将会达到65亿美元。(一半来自VR设备,其余来自游戏,电影,商业应用,主题公园等等)

This episode takes a look at the current status of the VR industry in China, and examines some of the obstacles it faces.

Featuring:

Eddie Lou: Founder Sandbox Immersive Festival and Sandman Studios | 青岛国际 VR 影像周创始人 & Sandman Studios 公司创始人
Eddie’s LinkedIn | Sandbox Immersive Festival’s website | Sandman Studios’s website

Gianluigi Perrone: Founder Polyhedron VR Studio | Polyhedron VR Studio 公司创始人

Gianluigi’s LinkedIn | Polyhedronvrstudio’s website and Facebook page

Denise Wu: VeeR’s Head of marketing | VeeR 公司营销主管

Veer’s website | Veer’s Facebook | Denise’s LinkedIn

And, as usual, your host, Aladin Farré.

Aladin’s LinkedIn | Aladin’s Twitter

Special partnership for this episode:

This week’s episode is brought to you in partnership with “WISE: The Future Think Tank,” a group founded by Philipp Grefer in Beijing in 2018 to spark cross-sectoral dialogue about digital life, style, culture, business, science and technology. WISE invites and connects thinkers and doers from different industries online and offline to discuss essential questions about how we want and should live in the future.

For the second year running, WISE will be hosting a special event in Beijing at UCCA in the 798 Art District from May 18-19, 2019. Topics will range from how AI can help solve world hunger, if the robots will take over, what can be learned about the future by looking into the past, how to find China’s first international superstar, and the future of design and creativity. Investors will share new ideas about the future of cultural and tech industries and startups, while China’s first surfer will share her vision for an environmentally-conscious China. The event will also feature two concerts brought to you by the Reeperbahn Festival, Europe’s largest music platform for international and transcultural exchange.

SupChina Access members will receive a special discount.

To get your tickets and learn more, visit www.wisenotwise.com.

Three main takeaways from this week’s episode:    

从这期访谈中,我们总结出三个主要观点:

1) Professionals and audience members are still learning about VR.

专业人士和普通观众都还在学习中。

The VR industry was a victim of its own success in the early 2010s. Creators and viewers alike were still learning the basics of this new medium, and there were significant growing pains. Hardware issues were also legion, and technology development took time–despite significant pressure from investors. Like many other buzzwords in related industries, like “AI” and “blockchain,” VR in China had plenty of attention but ultimately little to show for it.

回到2010年,人们对VR寄予了太多期望,而在当时,无论是创作者还是观众都没有完全掌握这种新艺术形式的语法,尤其是当我们想用VR来讲故事的时候。另外,设备也需要改进,但是科技发展有它自己的步调,它跟投资者的步调并不一致。在中国,有很多投资者总是在追逐热点,比如区块链,AI或者VR.

2) Success for VR depends on these key elements: Good content, strategic distribution, and focus on the “theme park model.”

VR(虚拟现实)成功的关键:好内容、好营销、主题公园模式。

Manufacturers and content producers are increasingly focusing on the potential of VR. In the process, they have found that one of the keys to ensuring a consistent user base is to invest in good content that is easily accessible to audiences. An example of this is the “location-based cinema” model, which is why there are more and more VR experiences to be found in shopping malls. Producers are also pushing for VR content to provide very intense, albeit brief, experiences. This helps to differentiate VR from films and video games, and ensures users are still incentivized to pay for VR experiences that are necessarily much shorter than films or video games.

VR厂牌和内容制作者越来越多,但要让观众成为回头客,作品必须拥有好的内容,并且容易找到。设立在商场里的“实体影院”就是一个好例子,它们正慢慢地提供越来越多的电影。对于创作者来说,另一个谋生诀窍是制作短暂却刺激的作品。为什么?因为只有这样才能让人愿意花钱体验。如果同样的价钱可以看90分钟的电影或者玩几个小时的电子游戏,那么谁还愿意花钱只看10分钟的动画呢?

3) The VR industry in China is simultaneously advanced and underdeveloped.

中国的VR既是超前的也是落后的。

VR is one of the few art forms that was developed and introduced to the whole world at a single time. However, the Chinese VR industry still presents an interesting paradox. In China,  there are hundreds of companies manufacturing equipment and no shortage of investors, but at the same time, artists and production companies have yet to produce many blockbuster pieces. There are plenty of reasons why this may be the case. Unlike in the West, there are fewer opportunities for large amounts of funding from public sources or big studios to support VR production, for example. In addition, the technical support needed for producing VR pieces is largely in English—a fact that has also held back the Chinese video game industry, as this podcast discussed previously. Finally, in the current market, local VR creators are often forced to spend time working on other projects to support themselves.

VR是为数不多的在全世界同时开始的艺术形式之一,但在这件事情上,中国却处于一个有趣的悖论中。在这个国家,有数百家公司在提供设备,还有许多投资者,但内容创作者和公司却很难创作出令人惊叹的作品。出现这种情况的原因很多:在西方,一些国家有公共基金或大制片厂的钱用来投资创作;如果你不懂英语,获取技术信息可能就会很困难(我们在之前关于电子游戏的节目中已经提到过这点);中国的VR创作者们通常必须从事一些其他类型的工作才能维持生计。
Recommended watching and reading:

Pinta Animation VR Studio: Website

Ghost in the Shell | Virtual Reality Diver (2016): Trailer 2D / Trailer VR

“Magic Leap” VR equipment: Website

A Touch of Sin (2013) : Wikipedia

Dying to Survive (2018) : Wikipedia


Answers to the episode quiz:

  1. Anthony Arthaud, a French theater writer, was the first person to coin the term “virtual reality” in his 1938 book “The Theatre and Its Double.”
  2. $2.5 million dollars (USD) is the amount that VR company Oculus Rift earned in their 2012 kickstarter campaign and $2 billion dollars (USD) is the amount Facebook paid for the company in 2014.  
  3. The number of China’s VR headset companies…is hard to count, but to start, you can look at Ant VR, DP, Pico, Iqiyi, 3 Glasses, etc.

 

Share
Aladin Farré

With two degrees in movie production and Chinese history, Aladin felt it was only natural to go work as a nonfiction content producer in China. He is now a documentary project manager at LIC China (大陆桥), the largest importer of documentaries into China, where he hopes to uncover the secrets of successful international co-production. Follow him on Twitter @aladin_f.