VR Watch: 'Lockup' producer jumps into virtual reality

Reality TV producer explores virtual-reality options

Virtual reality, meet reality.

With a number of VR startups concentrating on scripted entertainment, it was only a matter of time before a reality television specialist tried its hand at the medium. Among the first of those efforts is Ovrture, a new company that’s being spun out of reality TV producer 44 Blue.

44 Blue produces gritty, second-generation “Cops” shows including the basic-cable staples “Lockup” and “Nightwatch." Ovrture hopes to translate those shows for the 360-degree world, adding them to its initial VR slate.

The company says that, as with most VR content, its material will be filmed especially with the medium in mind.

“Ovrture is using the new wave of VR technology to engage audiences with immersive, interactive experiences that would be impossible to convey with traditional linear television,” Ovrture Chief Executive Mike Drachkovitch, who is the son of the 44 Blue founders, said in a statement. “We are not converting regular content to VR, but converting viewers to active participants in the story.”

The idea is to film and distribute added content for those shows — an inmate’s first days, or a paramedic responding to a call —that make viewers feel like they are alongside the subjects.

There have been several efforts at live VR programming -- sports and concerts, for instance -- and a number of early VR adopters have undertaken nonscripted content from a journalism standpoint, including the VR godmother Nonny de la Pena, who has made pieces set in conflict zones. Still, questions remain about which genres are most suited to VR, and whether content that already has a sense of urgency will start to feel like overload in such a visceral medium.

44 Blue’s announcement underscores how VR is encouraging producers to shoot content and go straight to the technology platforms, bypassing the distribution middlemen of more traditional flat-framed content.

The wave is expected to continue as consumer adoption becomes a reality. Oculus has announced it will make its first VR headset available to consumers next year, with other hardware and software companies expected to follow.


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