Naughty America tries to get VR porn just right

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Believe it or not, the porn industry is having a bit of a hard time with virtual reality. VR is all about immersing you in the middle of a virtual place, setting your imagination loose and making you feel like you are right there with what you are seeing. Sounds ideal, right?

But Ian Paul, chief information officer for porn site Naughty America, told me in an interview that it’s actually pretty hard to get the first-person camera angle just right in a VR porn video. If his people can get it right, then there’s a new gold mine awaiting them. Naturally, porn and VR are likely to get along well. Porn has driven the success of many technologies, including the video cassette recorder, DVDs, and the Internet. Naughty America wants to capitalize on the launches of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets. VR porn is already drawing millions of views, according to data company Similar Web.

“We had to figure out a way to use this technology in a way we could repeatedly create high-quality content,” Paul said. “In a normal camera, you can look through it and see if it is right. But with a 180-degree VR camera, you can’t look. You have to shoot it and figure out later if it worked. Right away, we realized we had to do a first-person point-of-view style of shooting. That’s not the normal way, as we shoot things from a third-person point-of-view first.”

“We also had to decide whether the avatar, or the viewer, should speak?” Paul said. “We thought that would break the immersion. We decided not to have the avatar speak. These are our initial forays into the medium. While there is a technological angle, there’s a lot of creativity that hasn’t been figured out. We hope to figure out the creative angles to take advantage of this medium.”

San Diego, Calif.-based Naughty America started releasing VR versions of its videos last July, and it has 40 scenes available now. Based on discussions on Reddit, Paul said that Naughty America’s VR content is widely admired. Naughty America decided to do 180-degree cameras so that it can use its pixels to create sharper images, rather than wasting them with 360-degree platforms. Naughty America is supporting all of the major platforms now, and Paul showed me some scenes on the Samsung Gear VR with a mobile phone. Each format has to be created differently for the different platforms.

“We’ve seen an uptick in people who have never subscribed to a porn site in their lives,” said Paul. “They’re able to try this VR thing and see this library of 8,000 videos here. It’s much higher quality, and they can see that there’s more to look at. It’s like a flagship product that is bringing people into our entire content library.”

Naughty America, which has been around for a dozen years, is one of the sites that charges a subscription fee, and it doesn’t run any ads at all. It has had millions of subscribers over time.

“Porn hasn’t driven all technologies,” Paul said. “But it’s true in this case. Videotape, DVD, streaming, and even Internet transactions are cases where the adult industry led the way. If you are talking about investments in heavy industry, we’re not going to lead in that. We won’t develop a VR headset. But we’ll take advantage of it, and that’s where we’ll excel. One of the biggest incentives for getting on the Internet was porn.”

Paul said the next frontier is making the porn feel more immersive. Naughty America uses three-dimensional, binaural sound, to create even more immersion.

“We have to innovative on the creative end,” he said. “You can see all kinds of video in 2D. But once you are experiencing it, in virtual reality, things like story line, camera angles, and quality of production become much more important. You can’t pump out any old content and expect it to work. It’s almost like returning to its roots.”

I’ve seen a few VR porn demos now, including VR Bangers and Kink.com. In the case of the Kink.com, the woman on top of me seemed like she was a giant, so much so that it made me laugh. So far, it looks like Naughty America has them beat. In the first-person view, I didn’t feel like I was super short or that the women around me were 10-feet tall. They were pretty much just right.

“We are used to seeing this content on a really tiny screen,” Paul said. “So we are just used to that. In real life, it’s almost overwhelming. There’s no standard for any of this. We had innovate the whole way. I think Hollywood will copy whatever we do.”

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