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Atlas V Launches New VR Publishing Service "Astrea" : Interview with Danielle Giroux

© Astrea

French immersive production company Atlas V is launching its own XR distribution service for online content and installations. 
We interviewed Danielle Giroux, Atlas V's Head of Distribution and Publishing, to learn more about "Astrea".

• Can you present your new distribution service, "Astrea"? What is its DNA, and its relationship to Atlas V?
What is the purpose of distribution in the field of VR?

So Astrea is the third branch of the immersive media group composed of Atlas V in Paris and Albyon in Lyon. We are the newest addition to the team, something that was first initiated by co-founder Antoine Cayrol in 2020. The first official announcement of the start was just this month actually (XR Must)!

We are the first global immersive distributor. Our DNA is really rooted in the power of storytelling through innovative technologies. Every year there are so many amazing, powerful, beautiful, scary, entertaining, educational, etc. immersive experiences made and produced by independent creators. The very lucky of us who are in this industry or close to it get to experience the magic of immersive storytelling at festivals. But then the question is always, what next? 

It’s so important for the future of XR and new media that we proactively try to find solutions to the barriers of distribution. We are a scrappy, hardworking team that believes in virtual reality as a way to reach people, as a frontier of storytelling that needs to be shared with as many as possible. Our way of doing this centers mainly around publishing, localising, licensing, marketing, and international sales. 

• What type of projects are you interested in?
Are you going to distribute only your own projects?

Our catalog right now has a variety of different formats and genres. The goal is not quantity, but quality. We are not rushing to sign as many new projects as possible into our catalog, but to really be reflective about the distribution strategy for each one.
Officially, there is an internal committee that decides on the catalog additions. 

The most important thing for us is that we believe in the project. As time goes on perhaps we will find ourselves with a more concrete methodology for selection, but for us it is important that these decisions stay close to our values in storytelling. 

Check out our current full lineup here, with more to join very shortly.

• In what context have you launched this project? Why did you decide to create a French VR distribution company? What is the French outlook on the industry?

Before the official launch, we were lucky to be able to experiment and learn by doing with some of the Atlas V slate. Like many independent immersive producers, you do everything in-house, and Atlas was no different. But what started to find early on is that production does need to be separated from distribution. Distribution requires a very different approach than production. It’s a different way of looking at the project, it requires taking a step back and having some perspective. And there is only so much room on a producer’s plate. Also, for a producer who has been working on a project for years, by the time they have their big festival premiere, they might want to be able to move on to other projects, to let their baby bird fly away. 

And what we see is that VR is so different than cinema, especially when it comes to the lifespan of VR content. It is much longer than we think. Projects published on Steam or Oculus, when done right, can bring new users every month, years after publishing. Museums, educators, telecommunication companies, etc. might never have heard of that content if it wasn’t for a team actively dedicated to finding those spaces where 6DOF/360 can find its viewers.

The French outlook on the industry is positive, and that has a lot to do with the quality of content coming out of independent French studios right now. Distribution can only be as good as the content it distributes. I think that this intense period of history that we all are living through has inspired storytellers and shown the vital importance of creating. We are seeing that in the works premiering at festivals this year. 
Plus, we are seeing more and more consumer ease with the technology that every year gets more accessible. We aren’t screaming about mainstreamification. But there are ways to connect to the growing niche fan base of Story Seekers, to strengthen the place of this type of content in the market and within our cultural lexicon. 

• What is Astrea’s ambition for the international market? And for the American market?

Our ambitions are limitless. And at the same time, we are very grounded in reality. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting something, of paving a way for immersive storytelling distribution. But we feel it is important to have our feet firmly planted while also continuously striving higher and higher. 

Part of this grounding comes from real partnerships across entertainment sectors such as Oculus by Facebook, RYOT, and Arte, and as well as telecommunication networks including AMC, Orange, Dutch Telecom, LG, and Verizon. 

We want to make sure we support independent artists in a sphere that can easily be dominated by bigger fish. And so concretely to do this, we need to be making this work as accessible and as visible as possible. We have created pipelines for localising and publishing content and are experimenting with more ambitious marketing campaigns to reach a wider base of consumers. 

Digital distribution is strongest in the American market, and as things open up, LBE opportunities are increasing. People want and need to get out of their homes and connect, and our catalog is rich with experiences that foster that connection. We also are really making big strides to tap into the  Asian market as well. There are new headsets and platforms popping up in China, and the Japanese and Korean avenues of publishing are very interesting. This is again where the importance of localisation and partnership comes in!

• Thank you!

Check out Astrea's full lineup here