Virtual Reality is a rapidly growing industry worldwide, to which India is not an exception. Even though VR has a long way to go in order to enter the mainstream, it has not stopped the enthusiastic bunch from the country to try and tap in to the blistering industry.
“Innovation through storytelling and technology” reads the foreword on Liminal’s website. Based out of Mumbai, Liminal is a VR and AR production company which is a fairly new player in the market with already a number of titles up their sleeves. We spoke to the the co-founders of the company Saketh Bhagavatula and Saurabh Ranjan to try and get a glimpse of their journey and vision going forward.
Tell us about the inception of Liminal and the people associated with it.
Saketh: Liminal is a state between real and imaginary. The state of mind where different dimensions converge.Manish Bhanishali (co-founder), Saurabh Ranjan (co-founder), Rohit Kumar (director of photography), Aditya Bhairi (co-founder) and I are the core members of the team. Each of us brings a unique skill to the table which is absolutely important to complete a winning unit.
For a team of two people with minimum resources to survive, being revenue neutral was not an option. We worked on our own projects to start with. We made a VR documentary on the floods in Chennai in 2015. This helped us function as a team for the first time and also showcase our work to different clients.
Liminal started making money within six months of inception and we have only witnessed an upward trajectory in net profit since then.
How did you land your first project?
Saketh: Our first project was Sensation White Hyderabad. A friend who was working on this project recommended us. Our task was to convince their team to implement VR and impress them with our ideas. Though we were working on a tight timeline, our team managed to deliver a VR after-movie within six days of the event.
What are the current projects you are working on?
Saketh: We are working with Accenture and HCL to introduce their advanced technology in VR.Depending on a client’s objective, we implement AR, VR or MR. We have delivered projects using all these platforms. However, our core strength has always been storytelling in VR.
What is your take on the Indian VR market?
Saketh: India has huge potential for VR. There are a lot of IT, manufacturing and event based industries with a need to showcase their offerings. And VR has proven to be one best mediums to engage their target audience. Also, VR market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 60 per cent between 2016 to 2020. (Source: TechSci)
What is your current team strength?
Saketh: We are a small team of six people. However we often collaborate with different partners to tackle a project.
Are you guys working on something out of the box, something which has not been done in India earlier?
Saketh: We are working on LiveVR and stereoscopy in VR.LiveVR broadcasts a live event, where the viewer can view the event in its entirety. Imagine having a front row seats to an IPL match or a Kapil Sharma show while sitting home.Stereoscopy will soon become mainstream to take VR experience to the next level. Apart from this, we constantly innovate on different levels of interactivity to bring out the ‘WOW’ factor within an experience.
What’s your take on Google’s venture into VR advertising?
Saketh: Google has been a frontrunner when it comes to recognising and popularising disruptive technology. This is a great news for start-ups like ours as they have eased our task of cracking the market.
Where do you see your company in the near future?
Saketh: We are focused on B to B business opportunities currently. We would like to start creating our own IP’s in near future. We aim to create a unique experience in every project we undertake. This will help us to raise the bar in VR and create a trusted brand name for ourselves.
Tell us about the HCL Campus project and the Super Dancer project you guys worked on?
Saurabh : For HCL Campus Project, HCL had approached us to create a VR walkthrough of their headquaters in Noida. This was the first time HCL was trying to impliment VR for their organization. The VR project was intended to drive a positive impact on their communication strategy, enhancing their presence at various events, attract investors and to generate curiosity amongst company’s enthusiast.
The VR experience was a guided by a narrator which was intended to direct the viewers attention and to give a feeling of personalization as if you are actually being taken on a tour of the capus by a HCL representative. The use of infographics was to give a futuristic look and feel. It was designed in such a way that it guides the viewer attention in the 360 space. This was one of the first VR experience from India to use motion graphics on such a scale.The experience was showcased at various events including London and Spain. Also the experience was uploaded on Facebook and Youtube which got about one million impressions.
Superdancer : Sony Entertainment Television is a fore-most Hindi general entertainment channel that caters predominantly to the all age groups and loved by the masses. Super Dancer is a kids dance reality television series. We wanted to showcase the superlative talents of the contestants in a different way that people have never witnessed before.The challenge was to mount the camera and audio units on the stage within 10 mins and finish the entire shoot within an hour’s time with highest production quality.
We designed a concept for one of a kind 360 video wherein the stage had to be replicated on all sides making it a seamless spherical stage with contestants dancing on three sides of the camera. A custom built DSLR rig was built for the project to deliver highest quality imagery.Working on such a concept required strict timing of beginning and end of individual performances by the contestants. To match up with the energy of the performances we came up with a spinning type transition which was quite challenging for the post team as we had to make the transition manually.Over 700,000 views on Facebook, making the video one of the most viewed video on the Sony’s Facebook page.
What were the organisers looking for in the Vh1 Supersonic project that you guys worked on?
Saurabh : Viacom wanted crowd engagement by incorporating immersive technologies during the three day music festival.Vh1 SuperSonic is India’s premium EDM destination with a strong sense of belonging and great community vibe.
We provided a VR experience which captured entire story of Supersonic. Right from being part of the team who created the monumental stage to the After-movie which narrated the complete journey. Though we did not stop here. We went on to distribute 5000 customised Supersonic google cardboards for people to enjoy highlights of each day in VR.
Our Augmented Reality booth turned out to be a real crowd puller. A kinect based experience where a viewer is transformed into a unique supersonic avatar. As the crowd was loving the experience, we captured their reactions to create a short video for Viacom’s social media page. This, along with screen-shots captured by kinect, were promoted by Viacom’s social media team.
We pushed ourselves to shoot, stitch, edit and release highlights of day one to three before the crowd poured in each day. With a line-up of popular international artists, we incorporated special visual effects such as doodling and particles to enhance the quality. We used drone with our VR camera set-up to add a new point of view for the viewer.
More than a third of the crowd witnessed making of the stage and other VR experiences while they were at the venue. AR booth had close to 4000 footfall over the period of three days. First time ever a music festival of this scale implemented Virtual reality. First VR after-movie for any music festival in India. We helped the marketing team to create a buzz across social media.
What can we expect next from your team?
Saurabh : Our focus as a company is to scale. Both in terms of team and the value proposition. We continually implement new techniques in our workflow. As we mentioned, you could expect Liminal to be a popular name in VR industry soon.
The studio plans to expand their wings to the U.S.A soon as one of their co-founders, Aditya Bhairi is based out of the country. Let’s see what Liminal has in store for us next!