Videobred has been in the same office at the end of Hamilton Avenue in Phoenix Hill for 30 years this year. The 150-year old former home decorating store — the old furniture factory stands in ruins across the street by the train tracks — is said to be haunted, a phenomenon that owner Jamie Pence claims to have captured on audio.
The ghost said “OK,” which seems fairly innocuous.
But even though the company, founded in the 1970s, is old, by tech-company standards at least, and the building is historic, Videobred remains at the cutting edge of media technology. It was one of the first, if not the first, companies to embrace virtual reality technology in the region.
Pence said that the video production and post-production company was the first in Louisville to go fully digital in 1992. Pence, specifically, has specialized in large format video like the kind you see in museums. Videobred is responsible for the 360-degree video, “The Greatest Race,” in the Kentucky Derby Museum and other, what he calls “larger than life, immersive” works, including one at the White House visitors’ center.
In December 2015, Pence 3D-printed a camera rig, bought four GoPro-like cameras on the internet and started filming his first virtual reality videos downtown, in Bernheim Forest and at the Falls of the Ohio. The four cameras shoot in all directions, and back in the studio, the videos are then stitched together to create the VR experience.
“You can view these films on all your devices,” said co-president, Tim Sanford. But they’re most immersive when they are viewed through goggles like the Oculus or even from cardboard goggles that you can often get for free as promotional items.
Once they saw the result they knew exactly who he should show them to — the mayor’s office.
Pence gave Chris Poynter a call and got a meeting with city officials and one group was immediately interested, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“They immediately knew the value,” said Pence.
The bureau says it is using the shareable, immersive technology to engage with millennial travelers and young families who are expected to account for half of all global travel spend by 2020.
“Other tourism bureaus were really doing a series of VR shots without a compelling story, but we wanted to be the first to truly tell a story using VR,” LCVB Director of Marketing Zack Davis told Insider in an email. “We took the VR approach differently by combining different elements of different scenes to create unique spaces that wouldn’t exist outside the standard realm of virtual reality, particularly in the Culinary piece.”
Since then, Videobred has produced three VR videos for the LCVB and has won three silver Telly awards — the highest honor — for two of its videos, one for the video about Louisville cuisine and one a 360-degree look at “game day” at Ole Miss. The Tellys honor the best in TV and cable, digital and streaming and non-broadcast productions. The cuisine video has also won a Samsung VR Creator Gold Award.
The Ole Miss video was commissioned by the school’s athletic department and a Facebook post featuring the video went on to become the page’s most shared content ever. The video shows the stadium filling up in a time-lapse video and then traces a football player’s journey from the locker room to the field from his point of view.
In the cluttered media world, the virtual reality videos “give them the ability to stand out over the noise,” said Sanford.
“Right now we’re in the wild, wild west, technologically speaking,” Pence said. He likened the current state of virtual reality to those old-timey tiny black and white televisions that were the first iteration of that technology.
Already virtual reality is being used to treat people with PTSD, to share the world outside with housebound seniors and to train workers on how to work expensive equipment by the leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, Caterpillar.
How does Pence know that virtual reality is not the next Google Glass? He said major players in the tech and broadcasting world are already “heavily invested” in the technology including Facebook, which owns the Oculus headset that Pence used to show off his videos.
This past NBA season, the league partnered with NextVR, a live broadcaster of sports in virtual reality, to bring one game a week live in VR to its League Pass subscribers. “Imagine having courtside seats or the best seats at the Super Bowl,” said Pence.
He said that Apple has been “very quiet” about what their take on virtuality will be but he suspects that we’ll know soon. “Once Apple does it, it’s done.”