Exploring other worlds with virtual reality

Interview with Michael Albrecht from A4VR

Tell us a little about yourself first. Who are you and what are you doing here exactly?

My name is Michael Albrecht, I am a trained sound engineer and have had a sound studio here in Düsseldorf for 15 years where I compose music for advertising for Pringles, Lenor, Deichmann, Hugo Boss and Red Bull for example. That is my background and for the last 3 ½ years, I have been focusing on virtual reality. In 2012, I stumbled across the developer kit of the Oculus DK1 and was immediately captivated. I researched everything that was technologically possible in the market and eventually ended up founding the company A4VR with Jan Thiel in March 2015. What is A4VR all about, what sectors do you work in? We have various special sectors here in-house such as motion capturing, 3D and the sound studio. We produce VR content and also try out quite a lot of new things such as building microphones or optimising camera systems with 3D printers. We do this partly because we need designs for our film projects which are not yet available on the market to implement projects that have not yet been realised in this way.

You just mentioned your co-founder Jan, how did you find each other?

Jan was originally a business contact of mine. He was Creative Director at the event agency Head of Event. I did the sound design for their shows. It wasn't long before I infected him with my enthusiasm for virtual reality. We then discussed together what other specialisms would be needed for a joint company based on VR. We agreed that 3D, motion capturing, sound design and Jan's expertise in event implementation and design would go together really well.

How did you finance your project? Were you able to bring customers from your previous jobs with you?

We are completely self-financing. In the first few years, we financed our activities through our existing companies and acquired the knowledge we needed for the start-up more or less along the way. We regarded this as an investment and also of course as a research phase so that we would be prepared for large commissions. They then came quicker than we thought! The fact that we had both had our own business before and so were able to bring the corresponding know-how and contacts, was clearly advantageous. From the financial point of view, it was also good that we didn't need to take out another loan but were able to invest in our future from ongoing business activities.

Do you have any examples of projects which we might know you from?

Last year, we were involved in the final of The Voice of Germany. We streamed it live, in 4K and with a 360-degree all-round view. We designed our own camera sets and installed them in the studio. This had the effect of allowing the viewers at home to see the studio just like the viewers live in the studio – also with virtual reality glasses. We did something similar for Circus Halli Galli. The show was captured there in 360 degrees and later uploaded onto Facebook as a 360° VR video.

Those are amazing achievements for a young agency. But you presumably want to achieve even more, what is your vision for A4VR?

A4VR is currently a service company which we would like to take into the high-end sector for example, the automobile or entertainment industries. We are also working on two other business models however, which are independent of clients but in which we see great potential. One of them is a VR broker product and the other a VR platform. We don't want to divulge any more at this stage however.

And finally: Why are you based in Düsseldorf?

There are several reasons for this. Mainly because we all come from here, our families are here and our companies were also based here. Also, North Rhine-Westphalia has quite a lot to offer when it comes to the advertising industry and industry generally. It simply makes sense economically. The market is big enough, we have many direct clients and advertising agencies with high investment volumes on site. And something else which is quite important, is that Düsseldorf has a fantastic transport infrastructure.

Of course, we can think about opening offices in other locations some time in the future but at the moment, we are very happy here.

Then we are very pleased for you. Keep on promoting Düsseldorf and many thanks for the interview!