Oscar VR Category Only A Question Of When: Hollywood Veteran

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A permanent Academy Award category meant to honor the year’s best virtual reality filmmaking is only a question of when and not if, according to Mahesh Ramasubramanian, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Loom.ai, the company behind the technology powering Samsung’s AR Emoji. In an interview with AndroidHeadlines, the Hollywood veteran who worked on some of the industry’s most successful 21st-century animated franchises such as Shrek and Madagascar explained that predicting when exactly is VR likely to become an Oscar category is difficult because contrary to popular belief, reaching such a milestone isn’t just up to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The onus is on the [VR] industry,” Mr. Ramasubramanian said, referring to the task of making VR movies and other experiences more widely available.

The executive praised the recent success of Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand), Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s short VR drama which received a special Academy Award in late October, but predicted that the emerging segment still has some way to go before seeing VR turned into a permanent category due to the fact that many audiences around the world still aren’t able to appreciate the new media format because it’s inaccessible to them. When questioned about the similarities between Toy Story which paved the way for the Best Animated Feature category by being the last animated movie to receive a special Oscar in 1996 before the category became a permanent part of the Academy Award lineup in 2001 (when Shrek won it), Mr. Ramasubramanian acknowledged the parallels but noted that by the time animated features were admitted to the Academy Awards, they were already available to a mass audience. That availability factor is important because it implies a new media format is here to stay, hence being suitable for being incorporated into the existing formula of the Academy Awards which themselves are meant to immortalize the filmmaking’s greatest moments, Mr. Ramasubramanian suggested.

The Loom.ai CEO declined to comment any further, noting how he’s a voting member of the Academy since last year and hence cannot provide insight into other members’ thoughts on the matter. The startup’s other co-founder Kiran Bhat himself won an Oscar for Technical Achievement last year due to his work on facial capture technology used in numerous Hollywood blockbusters, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Mr. Bhat described Carne y Arena’s acknowledgment as “incredibly gratifying” to witness, adding that he hopes the Academy will soon incorporate the category into its permanent portfolio. For the time being, VR features are still able to compete in other categories, as was the case with Google’s Pearl which last year became history’s first VR project to be nominated for an Oscar.