Students work toward the future of virtual reality films

A group of USC students are looking at a new reality.

Greg Feingold, a junior majoring in business cinematic arts, has started a virtual reality production company, VR The World. With minimal equipment and a team of students from different fields, VRTW has produced content for Coachella, Springfest and the USC Rowing Team.

Alongside Stephen Jensen, a junior majoring in sound design, Noah Yoseloff and Jacob Sami, a senior and a sophomore  respectively both majoring in business administration, the team of four students comprise the technology startup.

Feingold’s said his recent introduction to VR technology came after he bought his first VR camera.

“I’ve been into virtual reality for about six months now. I got to work on it in my internship,” Feingold said. “I was able to buy a camera at SXSW, one of the first 360-degree consumer cameras. It’s just two cameras and it stitches [the video] automatically.”

For one of their first projects, Feingold used the $350 camera to film a VR production for the USC Men’s Rowing team, which picked up hits from around the world.

“I made a rowing film — I’m on the rowing team at USC. I sent it to a few people but it got really viral within the rowing community,” Feingold said. “We got messages from the Kuwaiti national rowing team, people in Great Britain, teams in Australia. Lots of people were sharing it.”

Their latest projects include on-campus endeavors, such as 360-degree videos for Springfest earlier this month and the New Moon Music Festival benefit for the USC chapter of Room to Read. But over the past two weekends, Feingold and Yoseloff found themselves working alongside the Coachella VR production team to create experiential content for the festival.

“[I] got hired by Coachella for the last two weekends, to help make their official content. I was on the filming team,” Feingold said. “The first weekend, we walked around with GoPro rigs and we would go into the crowd and on stage.”

Apart from festivals, most of the startup’s clients are in the real estate, marketing and music industry fields. A particularly novel use of the 360-degree video technology has been to showcase open houses from across the country.

“I started getting a lot of requests from people to make them videos, real estate firms, marketing companies, convert and record labels,” Feingold said. “People in L.A. might want to see a house in New York and they don’t even have to be there.”

Jensen spoke on the barriers that VR technology faces. He mentioned the limits of stereo sound when using an interactive headset or VR phone app.

“It’s weird because you’d be looking at something [different], but the audio wouldn’t change, and video games have picked up on that,” Jensen said. “They’ve started mapping sound based off the viewer’s head movements. Consumer public video hasn’t really caught up yet.”

Both Jensen and Feingold place a lot of their success on the timeliness of their enterprise and the lack of competitors in the market.

“It’s such a low barrier of entry, the fact that I could just buy one of the [cameras] but also there’s not a lot of people doing it yet,” Feingold said. “It took a lot of teaching myself to stitch and edit.”

Feingold expressed his desire for more students to get involved with the technology, despite their lack of experience with VR, and hopes that VR The World can be a jumping-off point for those who want to get involved.

“There’s a lot of people at USC who want to get involved with VR, but they don’t know how. We want to be the place you go to,” Feingold said.