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The most common mistake virtual reality creators make

Hey friends, and welcome back to the Alex Makes VR podcast. In today's episode, I want to talk about the most common mistake that people make when they start creating for virtual reality. But before we dive into that, are you a new listener to the show? Or have you been listening for a while and haven't reached out to say hello yet? If that sounds like you, my friend, please, please, please hit me up on any of the social media sites to say hello, tell me about yourself. Tell me about where you're at? What brings you to the VR industry? Are you looking to get into it? Are you already into it? Are you a creator? Are you more of a business person? I would love to connect with more of you listeners of this show. One of the most fulfilling parts of 2020 was getting to kind of know so many of you that listen and I know that there's loads more of you who haven't reached out to say hello yet, so please, reach out on any social media platform. It's @alexmakesvr.

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This is a full transcription of the podcast episode. Instead you can listen to the episode here:

So let's jump straight in with the most common mistake that I see people make which is the most common mistake that I still make to this day too, and it's a constant battle to remind myself to check in. Every time I start a new piece, the most common mistake is that people don't think about how the end user will be consuming this project, whether it's a 360 video, a VR game, a social platform, a virtual event, whatever it is that someone creates for virtual reality, as in something that someone creates for someone to consume in a headset, the number one mistake I see is that people don't

fully think about and anticipate how the end user will be consuming it. Now what I mean by that is everything that happens before and during and to some extent, after someone gets their headset, puts it on, experiences the thing that you've created, they don't think about the context in which all of that is happening.

Now, why is that so important? The reason it's so important, is because one of the biggest hurdles we have as VR creators, is a lot of the time, we have to overcome so many obstacles, before a user even experiences our work. It's not the same as publishing something on YouTube and of course, that comes with its own challenges but using a smartphone, using the YouTube app, 99% of people have got that down, right? And then, of course, there's going to be some tech illiterate people that might need a hand and you know, you're probably not going to send a YouTube link to a 95 year old, although I'm not gonna lie there are some pretty tech savvy grannies, so that's a bit of a generalisation, but do you know what I mean? Like, you don't have the same friction. When it comes to VR, there is so many things that have to happen before that person is comfortably in a headset and on your app that I don't think enough people consider those things. When it comes to their project, this could be anything from where is the person when they're consuming? Is this piece you're making for someone who is watching at home? And if they're watching at home, are you expecting them to have a lot of space? Because most people don't have the luxury of having a lot of space? You know, I can just about measure out a nice little clear area to play Beat Sabre sometimes but sometimes I end up whacking the fridge. So, you know, thinking about the actual practicalities. Where is this person choosing to show it? Is it created for a group showing? If so, have you taken into a view, taken into consideration the fact that while it is a group showing, then most likely, there's going to be quite limited mobility. For those people, they're probably going to be sat and even if they are on swivel chairs, they will most likely be static, because that is how people behave when they are in a group setting. People aren't probably going to be flailing around and like looking around and being really inquisitive and engaged with a 360 video. If they're in a big group setting, they'll most likely do a little bit of exploration, but they'll need a lot of guidance or need a lot of nudging with the directing. And most likely, you'll want to put most of the action happening in the front 180 degrees versus a VR arcade. Like is your piece meant to be consumed in a VR arcade? In which case, okay, so it's a totally different vibe. What's that person's mindset when they go into a VR arcade? They're there for an experience, they're most likely there with a group of friends or like a partner, a sibling, whatever it might be. They are there because they want this shared experience. They want to be able to discuss something afterwards. They want to be hyped. They want high energy probably. You know, it's a totally totally different vibe versus someone who's at home, who's maybe using their headset more practically. Maybe they're using it at work? But if they're using it at work, do they have a specific time kind of frame that they need to use it? If they're a woman, they might be wearing their hair and makeup in a certain way that will maybe make them not want to wear the headset for as long. These are all real, real problems and factors that needs to be considered when creating for VR. Even if you're creating a simple 360 photo/video, that will end up on YouTube or Facebook to be consumed that way, that's obviously totally different and obviously, if you're consuming it on a mobile without a headset, that's not VR, that's 360, which is kind of a separate topi but even if...lets say, for example, you're creating a piece that you want to be experienced in a Google Cardboard just at home, or one of those kind of, you know, the ones that use a phone, and just a simple plastic or cardboard setup that you just shove your phone into. If someone's using that, then maybe you need to build in a kind of an intro piece that says - are you using cardboard? You know, I'm going to do a countdown, maybe it's instructions, because some people won't know how to do it. Or maybe, you want to build in a nice buffer time at the beginning because it's a bit fiddly pressing play and then switching it into cardboard mode and then putting it in a headset. Even if you're using a cardboard situation with a client, for example, you need to think about that. I know a lot of people that to get around the COVID restrictions and the hygiene restrictions on using the more high end headsets, they're using disposable, one-off cardboards with clients and patients. So the idea being that they make a piece, and they just roll it out onto something like a cardboard headset, which for those of you who don't know, is just basically exactly what it sounds like. It's a little cardboard headset with some kind of plastic lenses, which you can put your phone into, and it turns it into a very, very low fi VR headset. I know loads of people that are using those with clients at the moment because they have to, there's just too much restrictions, there's too much kind of hesitation and there's too much anxiety around someone putting a VR headset on their face. You know, there's foam that has a kind of cloth interior and I'm not sure why you would want to put that on my face. All of those things, so you might be rolling something out on a cardboard but say you've created experience and someone jumps straight in and they've missed half of it because they've pressed play but then they're fiddling, trying to get in the headset or they can't quite see because the phones not quite lined up. So maybe you build in a buffer, or an intro sequence that is someone introducing the piece, you know, virtually kind of saying - I'm not there to demo this for you, so let me talk you through what you need to do and then once you're comfortable, we'll get into the experience. If you're creating a drama let's say, and this is something that I'm kind of up against at the moment but if you're building a drama or an entertainment piece that you want people to consume, think about the mood, the headspace you need them to be in? How do I make sure that even if they've had a bit of a faff getting the headset on, even if it's been a bit clunky of an experience or even if it's in a kind of festival setting where there is still a bit of social anxiety, how do I eliminate that in the first 30 seconds? How do I use sound? How do I use action? How do I make that first setting that first scene so powerful that it takes it all away? Do you know what I mean? Do you kind of get where I'm going with this? So I think the most common mistake that people make is that they just kind of think about the fact that well, most of us listening, if you are creating for VR, even if you're relatively new to it, you're obviously quite well versed with it. So it's quite simple. It's not a simple workflow, but it's obviously very different creating something as it is consuming something. So we sometimes don't think about what that might look like. I remember the last time and this is going back a long time now, thinking about it because we've been in lockdown for almost a year but the last time I had a bit of a party with my friends, and we got the VR headset out because it's always amusing and my friends always love to get the headset out when they have access to it, aka when I'm hosting. So we put something on for someone to see but they didn't want to necessarily miss out on what was going on in the room and so they didn't put the headphones on. So they wanted the volume down and so the thing that they were trying to do... I think was a space like an an ISS kind of thing and you have to like navigate around a space kind of ship. But the instructions, they weren't visual, they were audio, they were kind of audible instructions that told you what to do but they completely missed those instructions, obviously, because they got the volume down because it was in a group setting. Now of course the creator of that piece, couldn't necessarily anticipate that but maybe have a think about that, have a think about if your piece were to be shown in that kind of setting where someone doesn't necessarily want to put the headphones full blast because they are conscious of their surroundings, have you got a visual aid? Is your piece as visually impactful as possible so that it still will have some kind of desired effect even if they do have the volume down. Do you know what I mean? Do you see? I feel like the statement I'm making probably resonates with a lot of you but I'm trying to think of like an examples and it's a little bit harder but I think the most common thing, the most common mistake is not thinking about the fact that the context in which someone watches VR is just if not more important than the piece itself.

So factoring in those things, trying to anticipate the context in which someone can choose VR is very, very different to the way someone consumes a movie or a TV show, a YouTube video, it is all very different.

Okay, that's it for this week's episode. Let me know whether this resonated with you? If you go back now and look at some of the pieces you've created in recent history, did you consider the context in which someone was consuming them? I know for a fact when I look back at my early pieces, but even some of the pieces that I've written recently, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I didn't necessarily fully consider the context in which someone was consuming it. Currently right now I'm working on my next original VR drama Bad News. I talked about it in last week's episode and I'm going to shortly although I'm not sure when but I'm going to start releasing episodes, probably on a different day, maybe like a Friday or a Wednesday or something that are exclusively looking at the behind the scenes of making that piece and bring you along the journey. If you're interested, keep an eye out for them. But with that, I'm having to drastically change the context in which someone consumes that because originally, the distribution plan for Bad News was going to be that we would try and send out to festivals, and then afterwards, we would do pop up VR cinemas, we would, you know, take it on the road and combine it with workshops around creating narrative VR, we would use it as research to understand how new audiences react to drama pieces. Now, it's most likely not going to be shown in that context for quite a while because of COVID. So now, what does that distribution look like? Well, most likely, it will be rolled out to people that already own headsets, but what does that mean to the piece itself? It means that most likely the people that are going to be consuming it have very, very, very different expectations of VR than someone who has never, ever put on a VR headset before. So that drastically changes the format, the context, some of the things that we might factor in technically, when creating the piece. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still absolutely going to kind of stick with my guns and create a piece that I want to be aimed at more first time users. You know, people looking for entertainment content, rather than gaming content, but not gonna lie bloody COVID, properly messed with my plans on that one, because I have to consider the context in which someone's going to consume this piece. But even if it might be, you know, thinking about doing a cardboard release, or something like that having an app that someone can download on a phone, and then watching a VR headset, you know, if we're going to do that, thinking about that opening scene, thinking about adding an intro to allow people to, you know, go through that process of putting on adjusting and getting comfortable, maybe even adjusting the length because a cardboard headset is not going to be as comfortable for as long as a Quest would be, for example.

So, context matters. I don't want to be a party pooper and say that you can't make your art and go do whatever you want but please, please, please consider the context in which someone is consuming your VR experience. That's it for this week's episode but like I say, it would mean the world to me, if you reached out and introduced yourself. Let me know who you are, where you're at in your journey, was this useful? All of that kind of stuff helps. If you've been enjoying the podcast, it would mean the world to me if you shared it with a friend or shared on your social media, or just left a review. These things really help and help other people discover the podcast, because a podcast isn't very innately SEO friendly. So it would mean the world if you do that, if you're getting value from this.

I guess that's it. I feel like I was a bit on a roll there and I could probably ramble about that topic for a lot longer, but I'm going to spare you because it's already 20 minutes long. So have a great week wherever you are in the world and I will speak to you next Monday.

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