Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Emma, tell us a bit more about yourself and your projects. What is the idea behind Virtual Weddings and how did you come up with it?
My name is Emma and I’m the founder of Virtual Weddings, I’m a mother to my daughter Ivy (12), my son River (7) and my step daughter Genie (15). They are my inspiration and my motivation. I live in Milton Keynes, England but am half Irish and am incredibly proud of my heritage.
I have been a photographer and artist for 21 years and have been lucky enough to work in the music and film industry as a photographer and a lighting technician (gaffer) through the last two decades. My work has taken me around the world many times to some incredible places and I have had my life consistently enriched by the people I have had the pleasure of photographing and filming over the years.
I have always had a deep passion to learn and my drive to constantly improve has led me through several college photographic courses, two very different photography degrees and multiple awards for my work. I pride myself on always achieving the very best possible version of the work I am creating. This feeling has been passed through to my work with Virtual Weddings!
I teach photography and have invested time teaching photography in prison - one of the most rewarding teaching positions I have ever held.
In 2016 I was introduced to 360° camera technology by my friends at Virtually Reality (Sandbox) in London. I was immediately obsessed with finding a new way to work because 360° cameras take away the main tool of the photographer and videographer - the ability to frame and compose an image. With 360° cameras EVERYTHING is in the shot.
I took the camera to Paris and spend time shooting purely in the 360° format so that I could build a new way of creating images that were compelling and beautiful.
Throughout the next 18 months I made it my mission to become an expert using 360° cameras and making virtual reality films and the technology evolved fast to the point where we are at now with incredible pro 360° cameras available that enable us to create a virtual reality world.
My commitment to founding Virtual Weddings has been fuelled by a life changing accident that I had in 2011 that left me with a brain injury and broken spine. The brain injury impacted my memory and my multi tasking abilities and, as a result, I now have absolutely no memories of my son Rivers first Christmas (he was only 7 months old at the time of the accident).
The 360° video and virtual reality films that I started to make (and now make with Virtual Weddings) are so incredibly emotional and immersive. I wish so much that I had some virtual reality video of that Christmas, I would watch it again and again to relive memories that I couldn’t retain.
Capturing memories and moments in virtual reality film is such a beautiful gift, my work is my passion and I feel honoured every time I am invited in to a couples wedding to create a virtual reality imprint of the day for them.
I am exceptionally pleased to have been accepted onto the Natwest business accelerator programmer with Virtual Weddings and I’m excited to be speaking at several events this year about emerging tech in the wedding industry.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
I started my research and development at the end of 2016 and we opened for business in February 2018. I have two other members of my team now, my VA who helps with some of the admin side of things and Craig who runs the social media, PR and a million other things in the business to help me - including helping me to keep perspective and keep my head straight.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Supporting technology. Finding a way to use the cameras to create the films that we make was one thing but it has been difficult to find ways to make it simple for customers to have the VR experience with their films. This is changing though as the industry and the social media platforms adapt to the new technology and the user experience.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Showcasing what we do on ITV national was a big success for us within the element of educating people. Showing people what is possible is a big part of what we do.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
We are currently working to expand our work more into destination weddings and looking to start offering Oculus Go headsets to our couples.
What will be the key trends in the AR/VR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
We will absolutely see a situation where we are all able to freely attend events that we aren't physically travelling to. AR will pave the way for virtual attendance.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all founders and entrepreneurs in AR/VR out there?
Be brave and keep creating. It can be daunting to be carving out a path but the industry is exploding and almost anything is possible.
YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxlydQAx_YU&t=1s
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.