The Western Australian independent production company White Spark Pictures has launched a new standalone technology business for its virtual reality distribution concept Surround Sync. Led by COO and managing director Benn Ellard, the new company will be responsible for the delivery of the patent-pending technology to cinemas and other venues around the world, as well as distributing third-party VR films and immersive content.
It comes more than two years after White Spark Pictures received enterprise funding from Screen Australia to develop Surround Sync, which allows for 7.1 surround sound in more than 200 headsets at any one time and can be scaled to suit different venue sizes.
WSP founder Briege Whitehead’s 2018 XR documentary short The Antarctic Experience acted as a prototype for the technology, with the filmmaker working with the Western Australia Museum Boola Bardip to develop an early version. It has since been used in the release of the company’s subsequent VR documentary Beyond the Milky Way, which premiered at the museum in December 2021.
Earlier this year, it was announced that WSP would receive &1 million to develop a slate of new immersive documentaries as part of a partnership between the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, the Western Australian Museum, and the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Whitehead said Surround Sync’s technical and commercial success made the time right to officially launch the business.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Ellard said the establishment of the company came as the entertainment industry was 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,” he said. “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.”