Nylon’s Simon Lister, creative director, and Hamish MacDonald, global executive producer, stood at the front of an over-capacity crowd for their presentation. (Larissa Meikle and I were two of the add-ons.) But Simon and Hamish weren’t going to speak. And we weren’t going to listen.
They were putting their audience, us, to work. We were to make ads using a 360 degree film and spatial sound.
And it was going to be competitive. Corey Esse was to judge the best piece of work.
What’s spatial sound? Well, that was the point of the exercise. Until recently, a lack of sound has been why 360 and VR haven’t been great. OK, to be honest, that’s not the only reason. Getting to great was – and still is – a process. But with VR in particular, the premise is that you are in an alternative reality. If there’s no sound, you brain just doesn’t buy into the illusion. And with 360, you don’t really get lost in the idea that you’re exploring if the sound doesn’t move when your view does. Spatial sound moves. If the object you’re listening to moves from left to right, so does the sound. If it moves away, the sound fades into the distance. And so on. It’s the last – and very necessary – cog in the machinery of creating alternate reality.
So we watched a film for a fictional airline called Dragonfly. It was a simple desert paradise scene, in which a dragonfly entered, buzzed around the viewer’s head, and disappeared. (Cut to peaceful cloud scene.) And we were divided into a pink team (Larissa and my team), led by Hamish, and an orange team led by Simon. Each team was divided again into writers and music producers and Hamish led the pink team to another room. Our ideas were sent to Sydney, and we briefed our music and directed our voiceovers by Skype.
Pink came up with a great idea, for the over 50s, that used the increasing annoyance of the buzzing dragonfly and its subsequent fading to peace in the idea and voiceover, underlined by the music which became increasingly noisy, then faded to nothing. (Enter tagline.)
But we didn’t win. (This is where the lesson in humility comes in.)
Because while the orange team’s dialogue for 18s and above was a tad ragged, they’d used the dragonfly as a presenter and his voice buzzed around the viewer’s head when the viewer moved his/her mobile phone to watch it.
With hindsight that was the object of the exercise (damnit).
“We see spatial sound as a huge part of our business moving forward,” Hamish told me afterwards. By then, I could really grasp the merit in that.
But it was Simon who got the ball rolling. “I had an original passion about three or four years ago about exploring and experimenting with 360 degree cameras. It was very early days and things weren’t really working. Now it’s all starting to come together. And everyone’s going, ‘Wow this is really cool.’ And because of that, a lot of money is being invested into making the gear, the cameras and the software. So it’s a good time now for us to enter. If you get in early, you’ll get the high end work – the good work – because you’re known for doing it.”
“We try to only do the work that’s at the standard for which our brand is recognised. And this area, spatial sound is where we’re interested in using our expertise to build another arm to our business,” Hamish added.
“So we’re in a good position to own something that’s exploding in the US and about to explode right now. I think creatives want a new outlet, a new way to show their ideas and get clients excited,” Simon interjected.
“We have a reputation for being at the forefront of what’s happening and we’re genuine about maintaining that, so we’re also excited about how spatial sound can work with mixed reality. In fact, we’re already talking to people about that. It’s never-ending learning for us, which is great for our tech guys because they’re all creative people and they want to keep learning. Plus, it’s great for our business.”
So if you’re curious about spatial sound, you probably should talk to Nylon. Maybe they’ll show you a demo they did rather than we did. And then you’ll say, “Wow, this is really, really cool.”