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Vision Denmark: Accelerating the visual storytelling and entertainment industry

Vision Denmark is the industry cluster for games, film, TV, animation and XR in Denmark. Together with companies, organisations, and knowledge institutions we explore and test new ways of doing business, attracting investments, and developing creative content and technologies. Our aim is to drive innovation and growth and to maintain Denmark’s position as an international frontrunner within digital visual storytelling and audience engagement. Vision Denmark’s activities are focused within 4 areas crucial in bringing Danish creatives ahead in the international competition: creative innovation, talent and skillset, capital investments, and sustainability.

Accelerating the visual storytelling and entertainment industry

Danish digital storytellers and developers create experiences and content with a clear purpose. They want to inspire emotions, challenge worldviews, and motivate us to action.

Dating back centuries, Denmark has a tradition for human-centered storytelling focusing on people, their experiences, and relationships.

As a Lilliput in the global film, TV and animation business, the Danish industry has always had to find its own way of telling big stories on small budgets. This foundation of and focus on high production value at low development costs has attracted international acclaim and created global demand for Danish film, tv and animation talent. Likewise, the Danish games industry is known for international smash hits such as Subway Surfers, the most downloaded mobile game of the century, and Hitman which reached high sales numbers all over the world and spawned a franchise of multiple games, films, television series, comic books and novels.

Besides entertaining audiences all over the world Danish storytellers and developers want to make a difference in the world. Democratic values and a special flair for aesthetic, simplicity and function is bridging the gap to other sectors and professional disciplines, contributing to digital transformation in other industries.

Through applied animation, gamification, virtual and augmented reality, storytelling and interactive products are utilized within e.g. healthcare, education and in companies for treatment of both physical and mental ailments, virtual training and to convey complex information to staff and the public.

VR and AR technologies are great examples of applied use. Vestas Wind Systems, the World’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, uses VR technology in the training of employees who get to interact with the huge wind turbines in the virtual dimension first. The company KHORA has developed several VR solutions for healthcare, among them a VR-based tool for exposure therapy, helping people struggling with phobias and anxiety.

Creative Denmark has invited the CEO of Vision Denmark, Jan Neiiendam, to give his perspective on the Danish digital visual industries and their role in both entertainment and as applied solutions on commercial markets.

Jan Neiiendam

CEO, Vision Denmark

What are the common denominators/what unifies Danish digital creators within the field of functional XR, animation, and gaming (ambitions, outlook, market contexts, usp’s, background, creativity-wise etc.)?

Denmark is built on strong democratic values, which also applies in the digital visual industry. Danish storytellers and developers strive to make both information and technology accessible for everyone and they often have a higher mission of solving or addressing societal challenges. We see it in Khora’s VR project ‘Challenge’ which helps people suffering from schizophrenia combat their malevolent voices. Another great example is Happy Flyfish and Drawesome Pictures’ animation films addressing loneliness among elders.

In Denmark we pride ourselves in being pioneers within applied comics and e-learning partly because of our universal health system that invests in new and more efficient ways of communicating, treating, and educating citizens – and partly because of a highly digitalized society which allows schools, hospitals, and businesses to use digital creative tools in their everyday work and communication with the general public.

What about XR, animation, and gaming for entertainment?

As a Lilliput in the global film, TV and animation business, the Danish industry has always had to find its own way of telling big stories on small budgets. This foundation of and focus on high production value at low development costs has attracted international acclaim and created global demand for Danish film, tv and animation talent. Likewise, the Danish games industry is known for international smash hits such as Subway Surfers, the most downloaded mobile game of the century, and Hitman which reached high sales numbers all over the world and spawned a franchise of multiple games, films, television series, comic books and novels.

The game ‘What the Golf’ is yet another hit in the more niche-oriented market and exemplifies the Danish gaming industry’s knack for developing somewhat quirky and anti-authoritarian productions with the good idea itself front and center.

The new generation of Danish digital storytellers and gaming creators work intuitively with formats that are easily accessible to the audience. Their competencies range from crafting compelling worlds, creating gameplay journeys, and telling stories with authenticity. Their attention towards democratic values, social responsibility and environmental agendas also marks the stories made for entertainment urging audiences to explore complex themes and put themselves in the shoes of others’.

What are the competencies that are shared across these industries (anything unique to Danish creators and developers)?

The Danish industry is defined by flat hierarchies and a high level of trust, self-management, and cooperation, allowing for smaller and more efficient production setups - and by highly talented individuals that make their mark from early education onwards.

Danish digital creatives, be it game and XR developers, screen writers or animators, all have a special flair for minimalist aesthetics and functionality resulting in strong stories with a clear message – leaving out all unnecessary glam and noise allowing the users to immerse themselves in the experience.

What do they as Danish actors bring to the table in partnerships with other businesses, especially abroad?

Overall, I think Danish creative industries and the formats of games, XR and animation have the power to help people all over the world recover from some of the worrying experiences of the last couple of years.

Our storytelling and interactive solutions are already having a massive impact and it only grew during the pandemic. The sector is also radically changing other creative sectors such as the design industry and museums, events, fashion, and architecture.

It bodes very well for the future because these areas are Danish strongholds that traditionally is known for their high level of excellence. Given our new cluster focus on the sector we are teaming up with brilliant Danish academic institutions and universities to help drive creative innovation even further.

Both Danish animation and XR solutions are helping advance tools and methods for medical treatment and communication as well as improving the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of treatment. At the same time Danish VR and AR solutions reduce the need for travel for product demonstrations and training sessions minimizing CO2 emission and addressing global climate challenges.

Where do you see the most interesting developments within the fields of XR, gaming and animation (functional and for entertainment)?

We are seeing an increase in fusion of skills and exchange of technologies across our industry. The Film and TV sector use game engines to create virtual sets and tell stories otherwise impossible in the physical world. And the game sector uses storytelling skills from film and tv to create more relevance and empathy in their games. As an industry cluster we are working to explore and promote more of these cross-pollinations to keep Danish content aspirational and creative skills impressive on the international scene.

In the area of Extended Reality, the implementation of 5G networks makes it possible to stream VR and AR experiences directly from the cloud into a headset paving the way for smaller and lighter headsets and expanding the use case of AR glasses that project digital images onto the physical world.

One last really interesting development is the democratization of knowledge with the help of AR. Different XR companies are looking to enable and empower individuals to do things we never thought we would be capable of and complete tasks that were formerly reserved for experts. One example of this could beif your car breaks down, and instead of calling an emergency mechanic or roadside assistance, you can fix it with the help of your AR glasses that will project small holograms onto the engine to show you how to fix it.

Vision Denmark has extensive insight in the Danish companies that are bridging the gap between sectors and working with innovative production methods and creative technologies. The cluster helps drive innovation and growth through matchmaking, networking events, industry facts and figures and creative development and test facilities across the country.

PICTURE THIS_ film tech conference exploring the intersection of storytelling, technology and visions for the future of filmmaking. Photo: Jakob Hansen

Vision Denmark’s game developer networking event. Photo: Jakob Hansen

Q&A contributor