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‘We’re all experimenting, there aren’t rules’: What it’s like to work in VR in DC

Meet Emma Mankey Hidem, founder of SunnysideVR.

Emma Mankey Hidem wants to tell stories through virtual reality video and she founded her own company to do it. (Photo by Flickr user Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin, used under a Creative Commons license)

Emma Mankey Hidem was in eighth grade when she took her first video production class. She says she actually didn’t watch a lot of movies as a kid, she “wasn’t that film-geek kid,” but somehow, in that classroom, something clicked.
Mankey Hidem had always wanted to tell stories, but the words just didn’t flow quite right. In video, however, she found her medium. “I felt like a really had a knack for it,” she says.

Emma Mankey Hidem. (Photo via Linkedin)

Emma Mankey Hidem. (Photo via Linkedin)


Fast forward through the years and Mankey Hidem attends NYU film school before going on to work for a company in Atlanta that specialized in producing video for museums. It was there, in a project for the College Football Hall of Fame, that Mankey Hidem got her introduction to 360 video and virtual reality. She absolutely loved watching how viewers would respond to the new, immersive experience.
I think this is gonna be a thing, Mankey Hidem recalls thinking at the time.
She moved to D.C., and in January 2015 she started her own video production company on the side. By June 2015, freshly back from an inspiring trip to SXSW, she quit her job to work full time on that company — SunnysideVR.
SunnysideVR is a one-woman show, though Mankey Hidem hires freelancers from time to time where necessary. She says marketing-related videos for brands like Esteé Lauder are what pays the bills, but her passion lies in documentary and non-fiction media.
Despite working independently, though, Mankey Hidem says the VR world in D.C. is actually far from lonely. Area companies working with VR in some way really run the gamut from a company like VisiSonics that’s working with 3D audio to Sensics working with hardware to the Notion Theory VR arcade and beyond. They all meet up at the DCVR Meetup.
“We’re pretty well-positioned in D.C. to be a hub on the east coast for VR,” Mankey Hidem reflects. And it’s all made extra exciting by the fact that VR is really still in its early stages. “We’re all experimenting,” Mankey Hidem says, of the work being done. “There aren’t rules.”

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