One of the best parts of our day is when we have an opportunity to speak with folks who are directly involved with Virtual Reality, listening to their insights and thought leadership around the industry. VR Observer had the pleasure of speaking with Neil Mandt, CEO and Co-Founder as well as Will Barratt, Director of Photography of MANDT VR.
We hope you enjoy as much as we did.
Neil Mandt, CEO and Co-Founder of MANDT VR – @NeilMandt
VRO: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and what brought you to Virtual Reality (VR)?
NM: I’m a producer/director and an entrepreneur. Throughout my career, I’ve produced over 3,000 episodes of television, for many networks and a half dozen feature films. Three years ago I felt the entire television industry was constricting and I started looking for other creative opportunities. I had always been a fan of virtual reality and I even included a strong reference to the medium in my first movie, Hijacking Hollywood, back in 1995. Something about this go round felt real and so I jumped in with both feet.
VRO: How would you explain what MANDT VR is doing in the VR space to someone who has never heard of VR?
NM: MANDT VR is made up of storytellers from movies and television and we are focused on creating 360 content that can be viewed on any mobile phone, tablet, computer, as well as across all VR platforms. We have worked with some big organizations, from Disney and Forbes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and IndyCar. We’ve been telling VR stories to brands with built-in audiences.
VRO: What is the most surprising thing you have learned observing people interacting with VR? Lessons learned?
NM: I’ve learned that people want this medium to exist. I tell my wife that I go to meetings and blow minds for a living. For real, I put goggles on someone’s head and they say things like, “WOW” and “AMAZING”. Minds are blown. We are just at the beginning of some amazing things and I feel fortunate to be a part of it in any way.
VRO: How would you define success for MANDT VR? What is the ultimate goal?
NM: Quality, quality, quality. The most important thing for me is to create the highest quality content possible for my clients. If I make something and the client and the audience agree it is a quality product, then MANDT VR has achieved success on that day. My goal for the next day will be to make something even better.
Will Barratt, Director of Photography of MANDT VR – @WBarratt
VRO: What is your role at MANDT VR?
WB: I am the Director of VR Photography here at Mandt VR. That means I supervise and manage anything in the camera department for the company. And now it has become both direct VR Videography for recording and live events, as well as the Head Research and Development! I am constantly testing cameras and camera systems to find the right product for the job, but even more important, find the right camera to tell the story in the most compelling and immersive way.
VRO: What has been your single greatest challenge? Tell us how you addressed it, and what you learned as a result.
WB: Most of the time the challenge is access. When filming an event, concert, or any non-scripted material, the 360-degree camera has to be in the very middle of the action for the shot to be effective. That means you need to get onto the football field for the coin toss, or right in front of the stage during the concert, or into the cockpit of an Indy car! If you can’t get the camera where it needs to be, the experience for the viewer in the 360 world will feel distant.
Like any business, it’s all about the relationship you have with the venue or the management of the production. It’s really the same solution for 2D (HD) production. Everyone involved with the production is on the same team, where we are all trying to provide the most immersive, beautiful looking stories for the viewers.
VRO: What impact will VR have on storytelling and how we consume media?
WB: VR Storytelling can be one of the most interactive experiences to date. 3D was a cool splash in the media world, but I feel that VR and VR mixed with AR is going to be a complete game changer regarding how we see images and enjoy stories. The viewer is totally immersed and transported into the story like never before. You are no longer watching a movie, you are IN the movie… so much fun! I am very excited to continue to be in the forefront of this new medium. As cinematographers like myself continue to push the boundaries of this new 360 world of filming, things are going to get crazy.