On Tuesday, April 28th, an eager group of Digital Hollywood panelists, participants and tech enthusiasts filed into the packed conference salon at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey to discuss a very exciting topic: Hollywood’s emerging capabilities to tell immersive stories and experiences through Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Annenberg Innovation Lab Technical Director & Research Fellow Geoffrey Long served as the panel moderator, kicking off the event with his usual dose of disarming, witty tech-speak & comical geek humor.

“This panel will be 100% buzzword compliant,” Long quipped.

The panel featured a diverse group of panelists driving the future of augmented and virtual reality storytelling technologies in Hollywood:

  • Aron Hjartarson, Executive Creative Director, Framestore
  • Andy Cochrane, Interactive and New Media Director, Special Projects Lead, Mirada Studios
  • Mike Rubenstein, VP, Broadcast Production, Integrated Operations, Hill Holliday

"This is the first time we show the world what we've been learning," beamed Cochrane, referring to his live, finished products from Mirada Studios, Guillermo del Toro’s visual effects and animation studio.

The panel discussion touched on the variety of topics, including the challenges of creative development, limitations of current technology, brand partnerships, emerging trends, and the future of the AR/VR space.

"I struggle to think this is the best we can do with content delivery systems, we can always do better," said Hjartarson of existing VR technology platforms.

Building VR experiences with brand partners is also an ongoing creative challenge, one that often involves providing early education for brand executives on the capabilities and limits of VR, and defining a strategic direction.

"What is the essential experience you are trying to give, what do you want? Sometimes VR isn’t always the right answer,” said Cochrane.

The panelists all agreed that the cusp of mass market content availability for AR and VR experiences is near.

"2016 is the year of commercially viable content," asserted Rubenstein.

Current Google Cardboard headset experiences make for a cost-effective, albeit stop-gap, solution. Hardware is another issue – affordable VR headset hardware technology is still a number of years away. The speed of consumer adoption remains to be seen, but the energy behind the work of these creative visionaries is sure to drive the industry forward.