3 Critical Steps for Immersive Content Creation

Bryan Olinger, director for the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles and producer behind iHeart’s Summer Streaming Concert Series — featuring Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Jason Aldean and The Black Keys —  shares his top 3 tips to maximize a viewer’s immersion and to fully capture their attention. Any streamer, gamer, presenter or content creator can use these exact same tips to make their content look, feel and sound even better.

So multimedia, if we think of it as just humans consuming stimulation, is an audio and visual experience. That’s why movies can immerse us. Because they command two of these major senses that we are using every waking hour. So when we create content that is essentially a representation of that visual-aural experience that we have in our actual lives, we can’t cut 50% of it out. We must consider how things sound as much as how they look or we’ll destroy the immersion process.”

You can’t phone in the audio product. If compromised audio happens —no matter how beautiful it is —your multimedia product is compromised.

You need to find just the right recipe that makes an audience member forget for a moment — trick the brain that they’re watching a screen and there’s audio coming from speakers. Because isn’t that what we’re ultimately doing with well-produced content? We’re trying to do this little trick to our brains that turns the off switch or bypasses the little thing that says, “That’s not anywhere close to you. That never happened. That’s not in a room with you. That is a bunch of different light dots on this gray box, and that thing you hear, that’s just a bunch of vibrations inside those black boxes.” 

Tip #1: Balance the Creative and the Technical

Immersive storytelling is simply understanding how to translate creative ideas into technical achievements.  Storytelling is identifying all the energies that you need to capture. When thinking about our live stream concerts, we ask ourselves “Is this a sweet, slow, dramatically lit ballad-based performance that we really want to move people on a more lower level? Is this a flashing fire, red focus on electric guitars and just the most screaming close-up of vocals so we capture that raw rock and roll? Is this a big stage, big wide flashing tungsten light blooming good old country where let’s recreate Nashville and LA vibe country show?” 

So when we talk about a story, we really talk about what are all the elements we need to account for so that we’re not just capturing and surveilling the performance, but we’re actually communicating some of the energy. If we do our jobs right, you watch a concert and it elicits something in you. You get immersed. The same way a really beautifully directed scene in a movie can bring an emotional response, we hope to capture some of that ethos with our live capture production.

Understanding what we want to achieve — and what emotional points we need to hit — allows us to make a plan on how to move forward. I came from a strong narrative background before I rejoined the world of MultiCam. Whether we were doing a music video, a narrative film or a dramatic commercial, immersion is always the end goal as a creator. You need to find the right balance in the lighting, in the video, in the editing, in the audio, in the scripting.

TIP #2: Learn to Properly Use Your Time

Everything needs to start with a schedule. So before you even begin production, determine the basics. How much time will your content take up? Does it need to be out by a certain date? Are you trying something new? Understanding what you need for both audio and video is the first key step to ensuring you’ll be ready for showtime.

And for every hour you commit to making sure your camera is set up in the right way, you need to commit the same amount of time to audio.

It’s so easy to prioritize video in the conversation of content creation. You have to worry about lighting. You have to consider lenses, cameras, video signals, and colors. There’s a very large spectrum of things that need to be accounted for. And audio, from the untrained perspective, looks far more simple. 

Most people simply think “put the microphone in the right place and make sure it’s loud enough.”  But that mindset all but guarantees a lackluster result.

TIP #3: Stand By Your Vision

For any project, there has to be a director. There has to be an appointed person who ultimately says, “This is how it’s going to go.” A good director has a working knowledge of every department and a trust in each department to do their job well. For some directors, they have entire teams of trained professionals to handle audio and video.

For creators just starting out… they have less. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t execute your vision. It just means you get to wear multiple hats. As a storyteller and content creator, you get to be the writer, the cinematographer, the audio engineer, the on-screen talent, and the editor. And you get to learn the skills involved with each trade.

Does that mean you have to be the best at every one of those skills? No! But you do get to explore where your passions and talents lay and for the tasks that you enjoy the least,  once you get to a certain level, invite and employ people to help better your process.

These tips were extracted from an interview with Bryan Olinger during the Earthworks “From The Stage to the Screen” series. This show takes best practices from industry professionals — from your favorite concerts, albums, movies, and productions — and helps streamers, gamers, creators, and business presenters to tell more impactful and meaningful stories. Let us know if you want to see the full collection of tips.

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