The XR Market is a platform where international artists and producers can meet with distributors and financiers.
It takes place in Paris as a part of the NewImages Festival, an international festival of digital creation and virtual worlds.
Developing a market that puts art and business strategy on a level playing field while keeping an eye on accessibility and public education is a challenge that many emerging technology economists are facing in the implementation of funding and growth strategies.
Elie Levasseur, Head of the NewImages XR Market, who has first hand experience in global XR markets, provides insights into how to build a sustainable ecosystem that balances public funding, VC investment, and sponsorship with art and cutting edge (high risk) innovation.
The NewImages Festival XR Market: Goals
Levasseur explains that there are two key goals to the approach of the XR Market at the NewImages Festival.
“First, we want to open the market to more people so that they can develop relationships,” he says, indicating that the more players there are in a project, the more innovative the projects that are developed.
The second approach he describes is to lower the barrier of entry for talented artists and innovators to apply. “So even if the project has 0% financing secured for its development, we may still select them.”
The average secured budget of last year’s projects was 15%, and this year, just 12%. “It’s low, but it makes sense in the context of the XR industry,” claims Levasseur.
Some of the biggest companies worldwide, such as Facebook, Samsung, and Google are investing billions every year into XR research and innovation.
“How do we make sure that this money can reach the artists and independent companies at the end?” asks Levasseur. “If you are an independent producer, the reality is that there are really only a few places that you can go to get money.”
Funding Content v. Funding Technology
“If you speak with foreign producers, they are all really excited by the French public systems, and how easy it is for French artists to get funded by the institutions.”
“There are some good points of the system. You can be an inexperienced production company or artists, and if the project is great, you have a real chance of getting funded. It’s a democratic system. On the other hand, all our production companies are funded on projects. Producers don’t need to think about the company strategy, they are thinking about how they can fund just one project, but they don’t have a global company strategy,” says Levasseur.
When he compares the system in France to the system in the UK, he says that in the UK companies must first pitch to VCs, and then develop projects.
It’s a balance between risk and results that also calls for a balance of public and private investment to capture cutting edge innovation that powers the narratives of tomorrow.
Levasseur also points out a difference between the established audiovisual industry, and the emerging XR market; “When you develop XR, you can develop technical assets that can be valuable for companies.”
What he is looking for is a technologist or company and creative with a global strategy and viable content for audiovisual and XR content consumers. As the NewImages XR Market develops, Levasseur has an eye to incubating European studios, working with them to grow and scale strategically and sustainably.
Festivals are taking a risk to bring the most innovative, impactful and cutting edge experiences to showcase. I ask Levasseur, how can you encourage sponsors to be a part of this movement? How can the festival support a marketplace of prototypes that are showcased to investors?
Already, this year Levasseur says they are experimenting with a new format for the XR Market at the NewImages Festival, and this means growing the program even more in 2021.
“If we have only 20 projects for instance, maybe you would have only 1 or 2 projects that deal with nature. If you have 50 projects, maybe you have 5 or 6 projects that deal with this topic. We can group them into topics for pitching sessions,” says Levasseur.
For example, this year, they were able to pitch to Oceanography Museums with a selection of relevant projects. It was enough to get them excited about the XR Market and to attend. “This is a new way to involve new players in the market, as the topics you are talking about are interesting,” he says.
“We also started this year with one group of VR projects all using AI to create virtual beings. We attracted people from IBM Watson for the first time, Google for the first time, Digital Domain for the first time,” he says.
“We want to be the place where there is cinematic VR, but also shows, performances, music, where every type of art can be showcased to the public. Every type of technology, mapping etc, has its own place, we are looking for pieces that have a story — our background is cinema. At this point we don’t see many AR projects with a story, we see some great games, and pieces for museums, but I am still looking for a proof of concept to develop in AR,” he says.
As Levasseur has identified, it’s clear that risk must be balanced with experimentation. There is a huge opportunity to draw in diverse investors and companies that are reallocating budgets to digital content and digital platforms. During COVID, the acceptance of risk has increased, so there is more opportunity than ever before to attract quality investors and public funding.
What can we learn from the various sectors that have successfully shifted their content online to an audience who previously in person, now interacts and transacts online? One answer is to rapidly adopt and explore new content and new platforms where content can be distributed and then consumed by a wide audience.
Finally, “If you want to open it to a large audience, you will need a big technical capacity, and you need 5G to do this,” says Levasseur. It’s an indication that we may be a few more years away from global scale interactive virtual immersive events, however, temporary solutions such as limiting attendees for a virtual experience to ensure high quality events balances quality with accessibility.
The 2021 NewImages Festival and XR Market will take place in June.
Feature Image Credit: NewImages