Hywel Glynn-Jones, the Production and Account Manager at DO Digital Realities, who splits his time between project delivery and client relationships, on what to consider before your next VR pitch.
Think Big Picture…but with small details
You need to know your audience. Someone who designs garden sheds usually has different budgets to someone who designs skyscrapers. You never know…garden sheds could be our next niche here at DO Digital Realities. That’s half the trouble and excitement; you don’t know what pitch could be around the corner. The difficulty, and any producer will know this, is that you’re usually pitching to a client of a client. I have to understand my client, understand their client, and understand if my client understands their client. It sounds like an absolute mess when you say it like that.
Get your questions answered before you arrive; spend time before the pitch figuring out who is who and who wants what. This will stop you diluting the pitch you thought you were prepared for when it becomes a Q&A piece half way through your time with them.
Overlooking basic features is easy when you’re focused on the bigger picture of a pitch. When the pressure is on, you can forget to confirm vital details such as how many people are going to be there or how long you have. If you don’t know those basics, you could end up providing one individual with the ultimate VR experience whilst the rest of the board look out the window and wait their turn. More often than not, an array of simpler 3D tools will prove more effective.
An alternative reality needs an alternative pitch
If you’re starting out with one or two demo headsets, my advice is to bring your client to your studio or ideally a ‘VR suite’ that has multiple headsets, power points, interesting spaces etc. You want to immerse your client within the presentation, rather than tease them.
A lot of effort is worth it; if you have the option of a ‘suite’, use it. There aren’t many around so if you don’t have that luxury, revisit basic pitch practice by setting and sticking to a tight presentation agenda.
VR is not good in a timed environment so leave the VR kit with your client after the pitch. Let them experience VR in their own time for at least a few days depending on how big the client is. Constraining your audience to individual five minute windows about limitless possibilities can be counter intuitive.
VR is broad, so spread your wings
Don’t dive straight for the headset when a client asks for VR. Unless I’m absolutely sure that’s what they want, I will keep the options open until the right time. To do this, I use a VR pitch demonstration that allows the user to explore the whole environment without constraints, whilst changing the furniture and finishes using real-time game technology. It was a huge amount of work for our team to create and render but now we can run that on a VR headset or a number of devices; it is really effective on all of them.
Educate and demonstrate the alternatives available; ideally as a first pitch or soft demo to individuals from your client to define what they mean by VR. Then you can return or arrive with exactly the right pitch: a real-time presentation with a VR headset, 360 CGI on a laptop or phone or CGI renders on a tablet… and so on into an endless world of options that you can try to make sense of for them.
‘Adapt or fail’ is one way of looking at it. Don’t put all your amazing eggs in one small, strapped to your head, basket. Not all clients are as comfortable for VR as they make out, so you need to decide if they are ready for your full whammy Oculus Rift pitch or not. If they are, then great. If they’re not, think about how you mute the VR without losing it entirely with a clever demo piece that combines several 3D tools.
Everyone is overthinking VR. I’m doing it every day. Try not to overthink what it is and how it should be talked about and shown. Spend time pitching the right production at the right people and cherry pick where VR works best. Everyone will know VR when they experience it because it just can’t be beaten when you get it right.
The experts of today will be the idiots of tomorrow so it is important that we’re always listening and learning.