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William McMaster


DMO Stories

William McMaster, Head of VR at Visualise, will be joining us on the 30th and 31st of March in Copenhagen for the second edition of the Content | Campus. William will be talking about the work that goes into building an incredible and impactful VR experiences and the key things brands should be thinking about to get their approach right on mark.

If you haven't done it yet, make sure you secure your place to the leading event all about Content! 

Quick introduction to yourself and the work you do at Visualise
I'm Head of VR at Visualise. Since 2013 I've been working on making cinematic VR experiences, mostly 360 video based, but also creating interactive productions as well. I'm originally from Toronto, but moved to London in 2014 to work for Visualise. At Visualise, I'm responsible for ensuring our projects are creatively suitable for VR. I often direct the experiences we make. I'm also responsible for the production team and ensuring we are delivering comfortable, engaging and high-quality VR.
How many people are part of the Visualise team and what is the main focus of your organisation?
Visualise is comprised of 15 people. We have pulled together an international team of people who are all experts in VR productions. We mostly produce 360 video for VR, and have worked on a wide variety of different projects. Everything from VR empathy pieces for Doctors Without Boarders to test drive experiences for Mercedes.
What work goes into building an incredible and impactful VR Experience?
The most crucial part of creating an incredible VR experience is doing a sufficient amount of work on pre-production. With VR, it's critical to define the creative approach as clearly as possible because VR production can be a lot more complicated than say a regular television or film shoot. It's super important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of VR as a medium, and to build the creative ideas around that. For example, VR is very good at making you feel like you are present in front of another person, but it's not very good (yet) at telling a complicated or fast paced story.
What should brands and destinations consider to get their approach right on the mark?
Brands and destinations should try as much as possible to think of VR as something which is different from regular video or interactive production. Often, when we are working with a brand, they bring their own ideas and expectations over from the kinds of productions they're used to producing. This is completely understandable, but as VR is such a new technology, it's important to really consider the following questions. Is this experience really taking advantages of the strengths of VR as a medium? Is the experience going to be comfortable for users? Is the idea realistically achievable given the limitations of the technology?
What advice would you give destinations that want to get started with tapping into the power of VR experiences?
I think the best thing they can do at this stage is to invest in creating a really great single piece of content first, rather than creating a number of pieces which have smaller budgets and creative care. That first piece of content will come with its own learning curve, and if it's successful, it's much easier to branch out from there. Secondly, destinations should watch as much VR content as they can. They should invest in a few different headsets, and try a wide variety of different kinds of content. This will enable them to be better educated about what to expect from their own content as production starts, and will enable them to understand what works and what doesn't, so that the creative approach can be better refined. Too often we work with clients who have only tried a VR headset once or twice.
What approach should destinations take when distributing VR experiences?
This really depends a lot on what the goals of the campaign are. The nice thing about creating 360 video is that it can be repurposed in a variety of ways. Creating a single 360 video means that you can distribute it to the widest possible audience by using Facebook 360 and Youtube 360, but you can also use that content at trade show stands, and in public activations.
What are some stand out VR Examples and what makes them special?
We're proud of the work we've done with Thomas Cook. Since 2014, we've worked on a number of VR initiatives with them, and the work was quite pioneering. They were among the first to realise the impact that VR would have on the travel industry. Case Study (http://visualise.com/case-study/thomas-cook-virtual-holiday) Another piece which we're really proud of is the work we did for Samsung and Refinery 29. Called Fashionably Bound, we created nearly 90 minutes of original content where 3 friends would travel to interesting destinations to experience shops and eclectic food. It was a great step forward for us in terms of combining a destination video with a narrative and making that engaging in a VR headset (Case Study: http://visualise.com/case-study/refinery29-fashionably-bound)
What are some of the results of these VR Experiences?
Our work for Thomas Cook was used in a number of their experimental retail environments. Customers were shown previews of the kinds of things they could do at the destination they were interested in going to. For example, we created a 360 video showing a number of different activities you could do in New York. It was called Try Before You Fly. Booking for these activities went up by 150%.
Why should DMOs not miss your talk at the Content | Campus?
We're going to be sharing a lot of our knowledge and experiences in creating this kind of content, and since we are among the most experienced VR studio in the world, I think we have a lot of useful knowledge to share.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Content | Campus?
I'm looking forward to meeting new people who are interested in exploring VR content, and to enjoying the city of Copenhagen!

Join the VR Storytelling Workshop to learn about achieving really impactful storytelling with virtual reality. You'll be able to work in teams and explore different approaches to VR, looking through case studies, adopting a structured method of design-led thinking and putting concepts onto storyboards.

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