Push the boundaries of interactive leisure

Readers of a certain age may remember Knightmare, the medieval-style interactive adventure show that caught children's imaginations in the late 80s and early 90s. Three decades later, rapid advances in 5G technology have the potential to open up an exciting new world of shared entertainment moments.

"Imagine Knightmare but upgraded to Ready Player One," smiles Geoff Goodwin, senior director of RYOT Studios at Verizon Media. "The big challenge is to make the entertainment as fun for the people on their couches as it is for those who actually play the game."

Goodwin points to interactive experiments like Black Mirror's 2018 Bandersnatch special as steps in the right direction, but insists there is so much more untapped potential. Another more recent example, Swamp Motel, demonstrated how an immersive "escape room" experience can involve players remotely during lockdown.

It is the responsibility of the production companies and their agents to take things to the next level. To usher in the next wave of innovation, Verizon Media's new Creative Tech Format Fund opens the doors of its state-of-the-art 5G studio: a digital playground for visionary content creators.


"We are looking for creative minds who can use our technology and our environment to advance their ideas in a unique way," explains Goodwin. "It is offered for people to try it out, build muscle memory, and understand how it all works."

Through the Creative Tech Format Fund, Verizon Media puts the full power of its dedicated facility – complete with a specialized in-house team of technicians, engineers, editors, and creative technologists – in the hands of content producers who may never have access to such content. how of the next generation.

Branded entertainment shouldn't be any different from other shows. It has to appeal and connect. These are not ads, but brand experiences

This includes functions such as volumetric detection, motion detection, photogrammetry and SmartStage technology. "All of this will only improve with the introduction of 5G," says Goodwin. "Combine them and enter a world of virtual production, and that's where it gets exciting."

But high-end kit is nothing without a groundbreaking idea to take full advantage of it, and they're keen to find new partnerships to make that happen. “We're finding new ways to partner and act as a catalyst,” explains Goodwin. "We want an army of indies who work with us and propel their ideas into the future."


Central to this process is Verizon Media's partner agency The Story Lab, which operates as part of Dentsu as a global investor, producer and distributor of premium entertainment. "This is an invitation to India: come and play, see what this kit can do," says Robbie Ashcroft, Managing Partner for Entertainment Development at The Story Lab UK. "This technology will have a massive impact on the next big global television hit."

It's an especially exciting opportunity for creative agencies and their clients to ride the wave of this evolution in interactive entertainment to create a whole new kind of branded experience, and The Story Lab is increasingly working with agency partners in its parent network Dentsu on brand entertainment commissions.

"It's the new entertainment economy," says Ashcroft. "This will be the year of Advertiser-Funded Programs: Long-Form Branded Entertainment Programs." A notable example in recent years has been Suzuki's All-Star Driving School, one of Channel 4's biggest original shows in 2017. The Story Lab recently collaborated with Rumpus Media on the Ronseal-sponsored show, The Great Garden Revolution.

“More and more brands want to be involved in programming, and many agencies would like to see their ideas in long form on a TV screen,” continues Ashcroft. "Brand entertainment shouldn't be any different from any other show. It has to appeal and connect. These aren't ads, they're brand experiences."


Ashcroft is particularly enthusiastic about the potential of volumetric capture for the integration of avatars or digital double images in shows. But Goodwin urges potential collaborators not to be seduced by technology: history must be king. "These are all great tools, but they don't stand a chance," he says.

“We keep bringing the conversation back to: 'What is the idea? & # 39; Once you've got around the fact that you are registering an asset in New York and have it available in London, you need to ask, 'Why?' Perhaps it is better to capture this person in a live performance for greater excitement. "

It's an educational journey. If it were easy everyone would do it

The main message here is that no one has all the answers. “We want to open our doors to the extraordinary creative minds who develop these format ideas and see what they can,” says Goodwin. "We want to be part moderator, part co-producer."


Even if creative agencies with the ambition to join the long-format brand program offer many opportunities here, the Creative Tech Format Fund is currently primarily aimed at independent production companies.

"We want indies who do this stuff day in and day out and take things to the next level," explains Ashcroft. While bold experimentation is encouraged, it's not free for everyone: there must be some interest on the part of a commissioner to get through the door.

The potential for the future of live entertainment is enormous: By combining motion capture with networked SmartStages, people who are thousands of kilometers apart can theoretically use the same virtual stage in real time.

"Is that for today? No. But to get there we need to understand how the technology works now, ”Goodwin concludes. “It's an educational journey. If it were easy everyone would. "

For more information on the Verizon Media Fund and Creative Tech Toolkit, please contact the team at ctff@verizonmedia.com