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Virtual reality (VR) startups are rare companies, even with the technology gaining more traction. Deep VR is one such company — specialising in 3D and 2D 360 degree video production — that came together while in a pinch.
Founded and self-funded by Ulrico Grech-Cumbo and Telmo dos Reis, in October 2015, the South African-based company started off as something of a necessity. Its sister company, Ambrosia Brand Experience Agency over-sold itself on a project. The client required a jazz club to be filmed in 360 degrees, but the agency didn’t know how to achieve this. Fortunately, the pair stepped up to the challenge and taught themselves how to tackle the project. Out of that necessity and learning the pair decided to launch Deep VR.
“We over-sold ourselves before we had the tech to match the idea, and had three days to figure out how to do that. To their credit, they trusted us to deliver a live jazz club performance not only in 360° but in 3D — which very few rigs in the world could do at the time.”
Adopting the motto, “Welcome to the future of content. Let us take you deeper,” Deep VR fits somewhere between videography and VR. This gives them an edge over competitors who only focus on a single field. Deep VR’s business of creating 360-degree videos is currently niche, but is gaining traction internationally.
We aren’t interested in CGI and virtual environments – our goal is to be able to take people to incredible environments and moments.
Neither founder is a stranger to the audio and video industry. Grech-Cumbo has a background in electrical engineering and has spent the past 11 years owning businesses in events and advertising. Dos Reis, on the other hand, is a qualified sound engineer as well as founder and MD of ProCapture, a video production company. Both are still involved in other businesses. “I imagine it’s kind of like having kids from two marriages. Planning time in advance is key!” adds Grech-Cumbo.
As with any infant industry, there is a lot of learning involved with Deep VR’s business model. The pair is learning as they go, but never realised the possibilities of what is capable.
“The biggest learning is how much application there really is. We never thought – and honestly never really intended – for the technology to have such a wide scope of use,” says Grech-Cumbo.
I suspect there is going to be a tremendous amount of learning in this business and we are hungry for it.
The company targets a wide range of industries such as real estate, brands, and tourism. These areas open a wide range of business opportunities for Deep VR. For example, real estate company RE/MAX has over 6800 offices worldwide.
The co-founders also 3D print their own camera rigging, which allows them the freedom to film almost anything they want from almost any position. The rigging isn’t for sale yet. “Unlike many, we also develop our own camera rigs, which gives us the flexibility to tackle very specific shoots with very specific equipment, in a world where not much commercial 360 equipment exists. And certainly not for a reasonable price,” says Grech-Cumbo.
To date, some of the company’s tech have been featured on eNCA.
When asked about his views on potential top hardware players, such as Microsoft and Sony in the VR industry, Grech-Cumbo answered, “One year ago, publishers like us in the 360° video world could never have hoped to have so much reach in such a short space of time. Therefore, Deep VR is not relying on hardware by Microsoft, Sony and Oculus to be massive mainstream hits. One way or another, we believe there will be huge demand for 360° content.”
Deep VR aims to be one of the top three live-action VR content companies in the world within the next five years. This goal will include an annual turnover of R100-million. The co-founders have a long way to go as one of their greatest challenges is time. Even with VR being a young industry, more and more competitors are popping up, but no one has those years of experience needed to succeed just yet.