Happy Finish is a creative post production company with a global presence. Initially, its India wing was focused on outsourced content, but over the past few years the India office has been increasingly catering to clients in the Asia Pacific region. The company uses a number of cutting edge technologies in post production, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. One of the pioneering areas is custom virtual reality content for brands.
One of the early experiences crafted by Happy Finish involved a Samsung Gear VR headset, and a mobile device embedded in a bat. The gyroscopic sensors in the device embedded within a bat provided an additional mode of input for the experience. Users could swing the bat and react to balls in a virtual environment. The experiences put the users in the middle of the action. Check it out in the video below:
Although Happy Finish is primarily a post production company, the relationships with the brands and technology providers goes so deep, that the studio can get involved right from the ideation phase, including the pre-production. The studio is officially a partner of Nokia’s 360 degree camera, the OZO, and Happy Finish actually provided feedback that was used to make the final product better.
A VR video in a gamified form for consumers of Levi’s apparel in China was made for Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB). In the experience, users have to wear a headset. Chinese pop stars Li Ronghao and Ai Fei would appear, wearing a particular set of Levi’s clothes. As the pop stars moved around the environment, clones of them appeared, showcasing various sets of clothing. The challenge for the viewers is to track either Ronghao or Fei, at the end of the experience.
A screenshot from a Happy Finish VR experience for the Nexa Baleno
For this particular VR experience, the gaze interaction was used. If the users could correctly identify either of the two original avatars of the pop stars, then they would be rewarded with merchandise or discount offers. The shoot required a large green screen environment, forty feet wide and four stories high. The Nokia OZO camera was used for the shoot. The movements of the pop stars were carefully choreographed, keeping in mind the digital wrangling of the imagery that would be necessary to create the final experience.
The Nokia OZO camera. Image: Nokia.
Mung Ng, Senior Account Director, FCB said “It is very rare that brands use creative interactive experiences in their marketing plan in China. The Levi’s campaign is the first time in China for a retail brand to use Virtual Reality to interact with customers in-store. It is a milestone for the Fashion and Retail industries here.”
For Ferrari in China, a custom AR experience accompanied the introduction of the GTC4Lusso T. The problem was that every showroom in China could not possibly stock the vehicle, so to allow visitors to check out the new car, a custom AR experience was built. The marker for the experience was a large mat on the floor, but the experience worked as well on desks, with the same marker on an A4 sized printout.
We checked out the experience at the Happy Finish India HQ, in Bandra, Mumbai. The vehicle does not jitter even a little bit when the mobile phone moves, an impressive achievement considering how wonky AR experiences usually are. This is not an experimental experience pushed out because the technology makes it possible, the application is refined and sophisticated. Users can open the doors, change the colour of the vehicle, and even peek inside the interiors. The vehicle remaining rock steady no matter how you look at it, adds to the illusion that it is really there, allowing for a more immersive experience.
A VR experience from Happy Finish is even available for potential buyers of the Maruti Suzuki Nexa Baleno, in Maruti showrooms across India. The experiences uses external shots taken with a drone, a test drive from within the vehicle, and an artificially created lab environment which really uses VR technology to its fullest potential.
The drone shots are shot in a desert. The exterior cameras showcase the car, and give you the thrilling experience of driving it in the middle of nowhere, at the same time. In the interior shots, the camera is placed on the actor’s head, putting the viewer right in the driver’s seat. There are subtle visual enhancements to the surroundings, to both highlight the movement of the vehicle, and guide the eye of the viewer.
One of the highlights of the Nexa is the Boosterjet DITC engine. In the lab environment, the entire engine gets blown up, with the individual parts and components highlighted. Users go through a walkthrough explaining how the engine works, and the unique technical advancements. It is difficult to show all of this at every showroom, but VR makes the explanation easy.
Another VR experience for an Indian car company, Tata Motors, has the Argentine footballer Lionel Messi playing the host. You get to drive in the passenger seat of the Tiago, while Messi is on the wheel. This might be a distracting experience for football fans, who are liable to spend more time looking at the driver than at the car. The experience is available publicly, on the iOS and Android app stores.
The experience can be viewed with and without the cardboard. The way the car moves in the scene follows the natural head movements when watching the playback in VR. The “virtual drive” showcases both the interiors and the exteriors of the vehicle, along with overlays that point out the specific features.
During the launch of the vehicle, the cardboard needed for viewing the experience was actually distributed in newspapers. The use of print media allowed for 2.5 million readers in one day. The experience was promoted on social media as well, and the app had analytics to let the clients know how many people had viewed the experience. At the end of the experience, users can rewatch the video, book a test drive, or book the vehicle itself.
VR content is a natural fit for showcasing automobiles. Instead of just static images, users can get to look at a vehicle in a more immersive and interactive fashion. Happy Finish has made custom VR experiences for Ferrari, Maruti Suzuki, Renault Motors and Tata Motors. “VR is the logical channel for Automotive Brands”, says Ashish Limaye, CEO of Happy Finish for the APAC region.
The experiences are usually made with the Unity engine, and can either be deployed privately or publicly depending on the needs of the project. The look and feel of the final product is crafted keeping the expectations of the audience in mind. For example, the Tata Tiago VR experience is made for the Indian audience, using the kind of bright graphics that are likely to appeal to the local audience.
Virtual reality is still an emerging technology, and brands want to be the first to use the it. There are a number of ways to consumer VR content. This may be through embedded graphics on web pages that can be navigated through mouse clicks or swipes, 360 degree videos, mobile VR experiences with a headset, and room scale VR experiences, where people can move around. Happy Finish has the capability of crafting any of these experiences.