​Technicolor Ready for VR Gold Rush

Technicolor has fuelled the hysteria surrounding virtual reality by saying it expects VR to be far bigger than expected.

“Everyone is underestimating how big VR is going to be,” declared Tim Sarnoff, president of Technicolor's Production Services division. “No matter how big everyone thinks it is, we believe it will be bigger."

Looking to capitalise on what it sees as massive demand for VR content the French-owned group has been on a spending spree to beef up its postproduction offer across film, TV, animation and commercials.

“VR is exactly the type of business that Technicolor excels in," Sarnoff asserted. "It requires the creative skillsets in businesses that we own and it requires the engineering and scientific expertise that perfectly matches the direction of our Research and Innovation division.”

In June 2014 it acquired Toronto film and TV VFX house Mr X; last April it added Paris animation and VFX specialist Mikros Image; and in September it paid £190 million ($290m) to acquire the world's largest visual effects for advertising studio The Mill. Technicolor also owns Soho's film and commercials VFX facility MPC.

“There is no scenario I see in which VR isn't going to become a primary business line,” said Sarnoff, adding that, “everyone is overestimating the speed at which it will happen."

He said, “If you invest heavily in VR expecting a return tomorrow you will be disappointed. But when we look at the whole space of VR and AR [augmented reality], the one thing that drives the business will be premium content. We are in VR for the long haul.”

Sarnoff added that Technicolor would not re-open film VFX division at The Mill, which exited film (in 2002) and TV (in 2013) to concentrate on commercials.

“We feel that brands and advertisers are moving toward longer form storytelling whether that's linear, directly through film or TV, in short films online or through new location based technologies distributed to mobile and VR. The Mill has the world leading talent to create this type of content.”

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