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Brief Published: 4 Dec 2015

BBC’s Personalised TV Project

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BBC launches Visual Perceptive Media project

The BBC is experimenting with personalised television. The British broadcaster's Research & Development division has launched a Visual Perceptive Media project in which video narratives are automatically edited in real-time to respond to a viewer's personality.

Viewers complete a taste profile via a mobile app, answering questions on age, gender, listening habits and personal traits such as confidence and creativity. The data is used to tailor individualised versions of the video story. Aspects of the narrative will shift to suit the viewer's preferences – for instance, the camera may favour one character over another, and the appearance (colour grade) of the film will reflect their outlook.

BBC R&D is keen to stress that "this approach to storytelling does not remove the creative process of filmmaking", a theme that was also discussed by Ed Catmull, co-founder of US animation studio Pixar, at the Dublin Web Summit last month. Catmull discussed the potential of virtual reality (VR) filmmaking, saying: "It's good, but it's not storytelling. The fact that you've changed the technology, and people are excited about it, doesn't change the underlying difficulty of the compelling narrative story. Just like books aren't the same things as movies. They don't have to be."

Catmull views VR as a technology for gaming and "experiences" rather than linear storytelling. We've already seen Apple and the New York Times experimenting with VR, but we still await Hollywood's first full foray into immersive cinema. In October, Oculus announced deals with US film studios 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate to bring their movies to the Oculus Store (its marketplace for apps and downloads).

But as Robert Stromberg, US filmmaker and special effects artist, commented to the Hollywood Reporter recently: "We haven't seen 'it' yet – the Avatar, the one that defines VR." Stromberg founded The Virtual Reality Company in a bid to change that. "Things we are doing could be that. I have complete confidence that [the defining project will appear]. It's going to happen very soon."

For more on the potential of personalised storytelling and virtual reality, see our Post-Digital Macro Trend, and reports from Comic-Con International 2015 and the Tribeca Film Festival.

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