Led by COO and managing director Benn Ellard, the new company will be responsible for the delivery of White Spark Pictures’ game-changing, patent-pending Surround Sync technology to cinemas and other venues around the world and will also distribute third-party VR films and immersive content. Surround Sync tech represents a major innovation in the entertainment industry, supporting and helping to grow the development of virtual reality to finally bring true virtual reality cinema experiences to mass audiences.
The Surround Sync system is a first-of-its-kind technology that uniquely delivers shared immersive experiences at scale by simultaneously and seamlessly synchronising cinema theatre screens and surround sound with hundreds of VR headsets. It sidesteps the need for significant investment and makes the most of existing cinema venues and infrastructure. This cost-effective tech could therefore revolutionise and future-proof the cinema landscape by creating new usage options for an industry still grappling with the impact of streaming services and the pandemic.
Over the past few years, sister company White Spark Pictures has achieved considerable commercial and critical success through rolling out its two current 360° VR documentary films, The Antarctica Experience and Beyond the Milky Way to prestigious museums across Australia and, more recently, overseas. But creating compelling immersive documentaries about hard-to-reach destinations is only half the story.
The success of these films – and the demand from venues, which has led to a recently announced AUD$1 million, three-film investment from three major museums – would not have happened without the deployment of Surround Sync. This proprietary ‘plug and play’ software and hardware technology, which can be delivered via Dolby Atmos, surround sound or 360° immersive headphone audio, has already allowed venues to promote cutting-edge experiences and grow new revenue streams with little investment, while museum visitors have travelled to Antarctica, or the Milky Way, enjoying a shared experience with their friends and families.
Surround Sync’s scalability means that it can seamlessly deliver shared VR experiences in a wide range of venues, making it suitable for anything from museums, theatres, festivals and cruise ships to sports venues, theme parks, visitor attractions and immersive visitor experiences. However, with many cinemas already deploying 7.1 or Dolby Atmos sound systems and having the necessary infrastructure ready and waiting, these venues offer the best possible opportunity for both driving new income streams and offering everyone the chance to be ‘immersed’ in VR for just the price of a ticket, as opposed to having to buy expensive headsets.
Benn Ellard, COO and MD of Surround Sync says: “The entertainment industry is on the cusp of a new wave, with audiences increasingly anticipating a greater involvement in the content they enjoy and having a profound desire to share those experiences. Virtual reality fits the bill and is an incredibly powerful and inspiring storytelling – or as we say, storyliving – medium. But, until now, the technology just hadn’t been there to deliver stories to mass audiences. Surround Sync changes all of that and we know from our early positive conversations with people in the industry, the opportunities are limitless. We predict that it will now also act as a catalyst for creators – everyone from big studios to independents – to ramp up their investment in producing scripted and unscripted VR films.”
Briege Whitehead, Surround Sync’s CEO and White Spark Pictures’ founder and creative director adds: “For almost a decade, White Spark Pictures has been developing new creative skills, producing world class 360° content and evolving our proprietary Surround Sync technology to enable the best possible immersive experience for mass audiences – and significantly, testing it, time and again.
“Now, with proven technical and commercial success, the time is right to officially launch the new Surround Sync business. Surround Sync technology is a vital enabler and marrying it with exciting new content and fabulous cinema venues will prove a major step-change for an entertainment industry always looking for the next big thing and truly remarkable audience experiences.”
The Surround Sync company will act as a distribution business for the existing and future VR films produced by sister company White Spark Pictures and will also use its experience to distribute a range of scripted and unscripted third-party VR and immersive content, with conversations already underway with several potential producer partners.
The development of Surround Sync has been supported by Screen Australia’s Enterprise Business & Ideas fund. Surround Sync is currently exploring investment opportunities to rapidly expand its international operations.