Case Study of The BizNest: The World's First Immersive Sitcom

Case Study of The BizNest: The World's First Immersive Sitcom

Eve Weston (Exelauno, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2433-6.ch010

Abstract

The immersive medium of extended reality presents plentiful opportunities to invent and reinvent. Some of these opportunities are technical, some are creative, and some are a mix. One of the agreed upon areas in this new medium that has been in need of invention and reinvention is storytelling. This chapter presents a case study of the world's first immersive sitcom produced by Exelauno, explaining how it came about and why it promises to open up a new avenue of storytelling for virtual and extended reality. It will share insights gained through the process of creating the series. And it will cover revelations gained at all stages—from rehearsals through post-production—about narrative, directing, comedy, and more in the context of this new immersive world.
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The Show: An Immersive Experience

Imagine if instead of just watching the television show Friends (1994-2004) or The Office (2005-2013), you could be in it, sitting inside the iconic Central Perk coffee house in 1990s Manhattan or at a desk next to Jim, salesman and office prankster, at the Dunder Mifflin paper company. Well, that describes The BizNest. It is the world’s first 360VR immersive sitcom, and it is set in a co-working space where YOU, the viewer, are a member, surrounded by freelancers and entrepreneurs who are working, socializing, flirting, antagonizing, and navigating the modern work-life balancing act.1 This series is a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment experience and also a brand new, replicable format for storytelling in an immersive medium. In the same way that the multi-camera television format led to the Golden Age of Television Comedy, the narrative and directorial format pioneered and presented by The BizNest has the potential to create a similar legacy.

An abbreviated synopsis of the immersive experience follows:

The commute is a cinch. You put on an Oculus Go, or any other VR headset, and are transported to The BizNest co-working space, where you can look around and take in your desk and coworkers. Your fellow “BizNesters” approach with questions, problems and commentary, and you experience a level of engagement that makes you feel part of this community.

Today, one-hit wonder novelist Donna shows up for the first time, needing a quiet place to work. Life-hacker Tim forgot his wallet and can’t afford lunch. Science writer Kate has a meltdown on account of her unspoken attraction to Tim. Fashion designer Rebecca puts her brother Uri on the spot when she’s late for a big meeting. And your co-worker Sadie won’t stop bothering you about all that tax stuff you need to do for your LLC. It’s just another day at The BizNest and you’re in the middle of the action.

After witnessing how the day plays out, you’re left with a feeling of happiness, and a desire to spend more time with these charming, quirky characters.

The BizNest set out to fully utilize 360 degrees, situate the viewer in a believable world and pioneer spatial storytelling, redefining sitcom conventions for a new medium. The result is an immersive, real-time experience with multiple interwoven stories—more than TV—and a rich storytelling environment. Now, how did it come to be?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Simul-Story: A show or immersive experience in which multiple narrative storylines are progressing simultaneously within the concurrently existing space of the experience.

Choose Your Own Attention: A style of immersive storytelling in which the viewer decides where to look and because of the clarity of the dialog, still follows the story.

Three Foot Rule: When an actor is within three feet of camera, they need to perform in a style similar to shooting for television and outside of that space, a style more indicative of theater.

Runner: A light story, played more for comedy than character relationships.

Laughter of Knowledge: When an audience laughs because they know something that a character does not.

Path-Mapping: The process of noting the camera's position and each character’s path and positions for a given scene or segment on a representation of the set or location.

Story-Organic Immersive Marketing: A style of marking that takes advantage of the consumer's presence in a narrative experience of some kind and utilizes product placement at one of the following three levels: having the product placed in the scene, having the product used or referenced in the scene, and having the product woven into the story.

“A” Story: The main story in a show: film or narrative experience, generally driven by the central character.

Multi-Camera: A show filmed with multiple cameras rolling at the same time and capturing different angles and shots.

Laughter of Surprise: When an audience laughs on account of having encountered something unexpected.

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