Nathan Anderson.

Start Beyond co-founder and COO Nathan Anderson has spun out the company’s entertainment division into independent venture New Canvas.

Based out of the Northern Rivers, Anderson will serve as CEO and executive producer of the VR entertainment studio, bringing with him Start Beyond’s existing slate. This includes Awake Episode One, Wentworth VR, Atlas Obscura VR and VR Noir, as well as projects in development.

Anderson remains a shareholder in Start Beyond (formerly Start VR), but tells IF that since the company was launched in 2015, the VR landscape has changed quite dramatically, with various use cases emerging for the technology. As such, the business has evolved and matured.

Going forward, Start Beyond will have a particular emphasis on corporate, HR and training, and education uses for VR, while New Canvas will instead be focused solely on entertainment.

“New Canvas has always existed within the business, although it didn’t have a separate brand; it was essentially the entertainment division of Start.

“It just feels like the right time now to get out and give that its own brand, its own identity, and be pure and focused about intentions in the entertainment space.”

New Canvas launches with a four-minute teaser prototype of Cleverman creator Ryan Griffen’s VR adaptation of his comic book, Lustration.

Anderson describes the project, which retains much of the stylised illustration of the comic, as a high-concept cop drama, but set in the afterlife.

Griffen developed the project while artist-in-residence at Start VR; the aim is for it to ultimately go ahead as a 3 x 8 minute short VR series. The four-minute teaser will be available on Oculus Quill Theater for Quest and Rift HMDs.

Also on the New Canvas slate is a work from another former Start VR artist-in-residence, Leticia Cáceres.

That project is an adaptation of a stage opera by Steve Vizard and scored by Paul Grabowsky that deals with gender stereotyping within the industry. Around 20 minutes, the VR version will delve into the same story themes, albeit in an immersive and visual way.

Anderson says: “It’s not as far down the development pathway, but we hope to have a prototype out early next year that we can use to then look at working with production finance partners, and potentially gallery or venue partners when they start to come back online.”

Further, New Canvas will also self-publish all existing Start titles across a range of platforms, and make them free to the public.

In this sense, Anderson says his focus is currently less on commercialisation, and more on building audiences and making this technology accessible.

New Canvas will be a nimble company, with the CEO arguing it needs to be quite selective about the projects it takes on as immersive media is “still quite formative”.

He expects to produce one to two short format projects a year over the next few years, as New Canvas continues to explore what narrative VR is capable of both creatively and technically, and new ways of reaching and communicating with audiences.

“One of the things I want to do with the new business is make sure that we’re being quite careful, and specific about the projects we work on. We feel that there’s a lot we need to learn still about how to create a format that’s going to be compelling for audiences.

View the New Canvas website.

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