Marshall Business of Entertainment Association hosts virtual reality conference

The Marshall Business of Entertainment Association hosted its 9th annual flagship event, the Evolution of Entertainment (E2) conference, on Friday. The conference featured keynote speakers and panelists from the media industry, and saw nearly five hundred attendees, making it the largest student-run event on campus.

The theme this year was the business of virtual reality, and as a result, the event featured 16 exhibitors, including 14 from the VR entertainment business, who displayed their models of VR gadgets for the public. The event was sponsored by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., OnPrem Solution Partners LLC, AT&T and Cognizant Business Consulting.

Vicki Beck, an executive at Lucasfilm focusing on ILMxLAB, delivered a keynote speech, walking the audience through the real-time computer graphics system intended to transform content creation in the VR media industry. Afterwards, panelists from different areas of the VR field talked about their experiences in the industry as well as their vision for what VR can accomplish.

“It’s a multi-channel business creating varied levels of business opportunities among clients, digital marketers, brands, advertisers and early stage companies,” said Carl Weinstein, an independent consultant in Los Angeles.

Lucas Wilson, a virtual reality producer at Jaunt Studios, said that VR can be used to enhance the special effects for films and TV shows to provide viewers with an entirely new way to immerse themselves in the world of the screen.

“It’s a new Hollywood experience,” said Wilson.

The event also featured panelist Shannon Gans, a USC alumna and CEO of New Deal Studios. Gans’ career has included her work in creating visual effects for over 150 films and commercials, including Interstellar. She was also named Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year by the USC Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in 2000. Gans said that her experiences in the entertainment industry have brought her to accept VR as a new and growing medium.

“It’s remarkable to focus on the creative edge of VR, and it’s booming as ever,” Gans said.

Ted Schilowitz, a futurist at 20th Century Fox, closed the conference by describing what he sees as the future of VR. He brought up 360 degree video as an example, citing the popularity of this new medium in everything from music videos to instructional films as proof of how far VR has come, but also how far it has to go.

“It’s opening up a universe of education with more intense, more realistic wide applications to be considered,” Schilowitz said. “360 [degree video] is just the beginning of the journey.”