Nikk Mitchell is an interesting guy. Originally from Kenya, he lived in Calgary, then Vancouver in Canada. One day, he dropped out of a Canadian art school, probably given sideways glances by his classmates as he left. But he took up a job he saw on Craigslist to work as a foreigner-for-hire in the midst of the middle kingdom on the other side of the world.
I see Nikk Mitchell as someone just like the rest of us, finding his way in the world. He took the bit between his teeth and jumped out into the deepest of oceans. Like Keanu in The Matrix but he swallowed both pills. He now has lived in China for over a decade, running a successful Virtual Reality (VR) studio. Nikk has native-level fluency in Mandarin and an extensive list of VR industry contacts, helping companies like Unity, Razer, Gigabyte and others to enter China.
Click the above image to view the 360-degree VR experience video with Nikk Mitchell in Hangzhou. Click and pan freely while the video plays.
Eight years ago, while Nikk was running a bar with a Chinese friend, Oculus released the DK1, their first consumer priced headset. He decided to jump into this unknown industry of Virtual Reality. “Since then I’ve been in the middle of VR, starting an online VR community that Facebook acquired, and since then being involved in all kinds of fun VR projects and businesses,” he says.
Nikk Mitchell has worked as a software project manager, developer and is the CEO of FXG in Hangzhou. Over the last seven years, his company has created experiences in the VR industry. Nikk also built a name for himself in VR through the launch of the first VR community website in China (purchased by Facebook in 2014) and VR content creation for a diverse group of clients including General Electric, Xiaomi, Huawei, China Mobile, China State Grid, and Sony.
Nikk’s company made VR films for a variety of brands from GE healthcare to Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta. “Lately I have been spending more time building my own studio’s Intellectual Properties,” says Mitchell. “Last year we sold the first season of our VR travel program, ‘Tripping with Nikk’ to Huawei and our experimental VR art music experience will be on the festival circuit this year (if the coronavirus fears don’t cancel all the festivals). We have also been working on doing more VR journalism, like the ‘Hangzhou during the epidemic’ mini-documentary.”
Like the awakening of a giant, China is now quite a hotspot for the VR industry. Not only are all of the world’s VR headsets produced in China, there are many Chinese brands competing with the industry titans Facebook and Sony.
“My city, Hangzhou, is a hot-spot for all kinds of tech innovations,” says Mitchell. “It is the home of tech giant Alibaba.
KAT VR, the premier VR locomotion provider is also based here, as well as countless other smaller VR companies making content and researching technology. Now my company FXG is based in the VR incubator Yanjian, which is the centre for VR in Hangzhou. FXG has been contracted by China State Grid, The Beijing Department of Water, and the local government to create VR content for them. Premier Li Keqiang, the second in command to Xi Jinping even visited FXG’s office this summer.”
When the Chinese nation was closed down during the still quite active global COVID-19 pandemic, Nikk Mitchell decided to produce a video to show what the city streets of Hangzhou were like. The production was filmed using the Seize 16K VR video camera, and also included a tour of the FXG studio. Nikk didn’t want work to stop because of the quarantine, so he decided to have his teamwork from their homes. “The production department needed to access the high-powered workstations in the office,” he described. “The solution was to have them remotely control these computers from their laptops in the safety of their home.”
FXG is presently focused on a second VR travel series, as well as developing new VR video technologies to film fully volumetric scenes. “The future of VR film is not just one perspective where you can look around freely,” says Mitchell, “but full scenes that you can move around in. There is a lot of technical and artistic challenges in this which my company hopes to make great progress on in 2020.”