The fifth VR / AR Salon “Collision between China and the West: The Trend of VR Content Development and Realization” co-hosted by Beijing Cultural Innovation Workshop, the Beijing Municipal Office of Cultural Affairs, hosted by the Beijing Municipal Investment Group, Green Pavilion Network, Tsinghua University, Tsinghua University and Tsinghua University – Microsoft Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, South China Agricultural University Precision Agriculture Aviation and Holographic Computing Agricultural Laboratory was held on 11 July, in Shengjing International Innovation Incubator of Chuangye Street.

Not only has the VR circle experienced a roller coaster trip from the capital market, VR commercial realization level has also been repeatedly questioned. Green Pavilion Network has been in the domestic VR content realization as they currently lack the money for overseas VR realization. The salon included two foreign VIPs as well as some local VR industry representatives giving their views on the difference between China and the West as the angle of return to the content and the realities of liquidation, the ideological confrontation. Salar Shahna, World VR Forum’s CEO and Wen Na, Film and Television Commissioner for Cultural Affairs at the French Embassy were the event’s keynote speakers.

Shahna gave a keynote address on “The Trend of VR Content and the Way to Realization.” In 2016, WVRF has set up a VR Lab to encourage and train VR creators and improve the VR authoring environment. Prior to founding WVRF in Switzerland, Shahna was on a production team which created the Swiss animation Ma Vie de Courgette. From movies to VR, Shahna also participated in Apelab, a Swiss-focused interactive storytelling company that launched Sequenced in 2016.

For Shahna, creating VR content means incorporating the expertise accumulated in content creation and with older technology of the past. Shahna believes that to elevate VR to maturity, the market needs to accept that it takes a lot of steps to accomplish this. According to Shahna, a unified brand needs to be established, a channel for games, movies and other media releases. Shahna talked about his movie and VR filming experience. He believes that VR viewers watching the movie should be integrated into the VR scene. In Switzerland, a large number of investors and sponsors as well as some banking enterprises have started to effectively put their funds into the closed-loop of media, culture and content creation.

Since the market has very high expectations for the entire VR industry, the entire market is expected  to reach 8 billion US dollars valuation by 2025,” stated Shahna. 

In 2016 the VR market has invested more than a billion in funds into this industry. Many large and some small and mid-sized companies are playing an active role in this area. Shahna plans to create a healthy VR ecosystem that will help more businesses sustainably produce and grow content.

Currently, domestic VR investment is experiencing a climax. From mid-2015 to the end of 2016, many companies have invested in the VR industry, but have gone bankrupt. According to Shahna, current times are a big test for VR content production practitioners, due to the low quality of content which is the biggest enemy of VR.

At this stage you need to take VR content quality to the next level,” said Shahna, “I think technology is just a way of producing VR, and the ultimate goal of the media and VR is to convey more meaning about culture and connotation. Therefore, we will make more efforts in this aspect.

According to Shahna, VR is equally important in the education industry. WVRF is also cooperating with UN and relevant educational institutions to promote VR content. Finally, Shahna said that many startups and incubators in Switzerland gather all support available within the VR community for the future, to actively create high-quality VR content.

Brigitte Veyne, the Film and Television Commissioner of the French Embassy in Beijing, briefed the audience about the development of the French VR industry and related information. Wen Na said that the French VR market development is in the initial stage with China, mainly with the industrial areas, transportation, medicine gradually developed. From a technical point of view, the French financial support, and therefore the French VR industry has also been very good at the technical level. Wen Na said the French government has some special funds, mainly to support the development of new technologies.

French art has a long tradition, especially in games and animation. These art forms are currently being introduced into the VR industry. There are a number of professional associations in France that bring together professionals and information about companies in the VR field. The relevant VR business information can usually be found at these associations. Wen Na also introduced the French VR showcases: 1) France Laval Virtual Reality show, held on 19 March this year; 2) Virtual Reality Exhibition in Paris; and 3) the Cannes Film Festival also set up a VR section.

France’s VR development so far has come mainly from the public domain, that is, the government’s input and support. Na said that different projects generally receive financial support from 20 to 500,000 euros, but one VR game experience received nearly one million euros of financial support. So far in France, VR content creation has been limited to short shows, while in China there have been some long VR shows. Half of the public sector financial support comes from the French National Centre for Motion Pictures and Television, referred to as CNC, equivalent to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Many of France’s VR production companies are small. The field of creation mainly involves sports, live broadcasts of live shows, documentaries, animations, feature films and commercials.

Finally, Na introduced France’s VR distribution. According to Na, France has more advantages in this respect. At present, there are not too many VR distribution companies in the market. In France, the first company was a traditional movie distribution company which now includes a department dedicated to VR products. In the meantime the whole world is looking for a VR business profit model that also belongs to the exploration stage.

Na cited one of these models: to build a small VR theatre. In France there is a cinema line, also a movie production and distribution company called MK2, a small VR theatre built in Paris, where you watch VR movies by buying movie tickets. Some funding for the VR industry is now also returning to the VR industry. So far, VR content realization and a profit model is still at groping stage, Na believes that from reaching the balance of payments, there is still some profit, whether in France or in China, the situation is the same.

Finally, Na said that the French Embassy in China will help enterprises of both countries to build a bridge of cooperation. For example, the French VR content will be displayed on large-scale websites such as China’s Ai Qiyi and Youku. Good Chinese content can also be recommended to the French market to establish more contacts and to discuss better cooperation and development in this industry.