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Posted on Mon 16 Oct 2017

Virtual Reality Sessions at Watershed – Research, methods and implementation

Producer Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt shares a rough guide to audience experience design, research methods and technical set up when staging VR as a cultural event, based on Watershed's ‘Virtual Reality Sessions’ in June 2017

VR Sessions at Watershed, June 2017

VR Session at Watershed, June 2017

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Portrait of a woman staring into the camera holding glasses

Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt

Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt is currently a producer on the MyWorld programme, a five year programme which will showcase the latest advances in digital production and research.

This summer, I produced VR Sessions for Watershed, working on the delivery and the audience experience design of our VR programme in collaboration with curator and Studio resident Catherine Allen

I have put together a rough guide to audience experience design, research methods and technical set up for staging VR as a cultural event.


We commissioned VR producer and curator, Catherine Allen, to programme a series of VR experiences in June 2017 as part of Watershed's public programme. The brief was to curate experiences that would be distinct from each other, highlight the potentials of VR and have strong content that would stand up in its own right as well as steering attention to people who are currently not well represented in the world of VR as creators or in the content, such as women and people of colour.

The motivation for putting on this mini season was to be able to explore several questions about putting on VR as a cultural event in a cinema (Watershed) as part of our public programme. Notably: will people turn up for an experience that is shorter than 20 minutes? How should we talk about VR in our communications? Are people driven by the novelty of the technology or the content? What price would they be willing to pay? How do we make it a ticketed event, rather than a ‘turn up and play’ event? Are our audiences interested in VR? What will the audience experience look like?

To answer these questions and many more (which will be covered in more detail in the research section) we programmed Virtual Reality Sessions: a mini series of 4x different VR pieces on each date from Wednesday 13 June through to Saturday 17 June.

This guide is released under a creative commons license to allow others to share in what we learned. I won’t cover how the pieces were curated (you can read all about that here), but rather what processes took place in order to put them on, including publicity, detailed usher scripts, budget breakdown, what equipment to hire and room set up.

Download the full guide: VR Sessions at Watershed - Research, methods and implementation

Related reading:

Virtual Reality Sessions: Lessons learnt for the cultural cinema sector by Catherine Allen

Virtually Useful - a series of short reads from Studio Managing Producer, Verity McIntosh aimed at creatives with an interest in VR.