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What's The Future For Virtual Reality Movies?

So, just in case you hadn't heard: Virtual Reality is here.

The Oculus Rift does indeed deliver on the promise of Virtual Reality, a mere 20 years later than promised. I've got two in the studio at the moment, and they are absolutely not over-hyped: the Rift is the first technology in 20 years that has made me consider moving from producing straight-up CGI animated movies to a new artform. The sense of immersion is incredible, the technology's workable, and the reaction videos are very amusing.

Naturally, people have immediately asked three questions: "Is this going to cause kids to kill people?", "Will there be porn in VR?", and "Does this mean that movies will be VR from now on?" The answers to the first two are, respectively, "probably not" and "oh, hell yes." But the answer to the third question is more complicated.

Film critic Roger Ebert was one of many movie fans fascinated with the possibility of VR:

"Virtual reality is still more theory than practice, but for a movie critic, it holds out fascinating possibilities. What is a movie, after all, but a crude form of VR, in which we see and hear what the filmmaker desires? Anyone who has ever laughed or cried at the movies has experienced a form of VR."

So, are all our blockbusters going to end up in VR?

No. What we'll end up with is altogether stranger than that.

Well, actually, in the most banal sense of the phrase the Oculus Rift is already absolutely fantastic for movies. Want to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode on an 80' screen? Virtual reality can do that. Put on a pair of high-quality headphones, and a press of a button can take you from your cramped spare room to an entire dedicated IMAX theater just for you. VR cinema apps are one of the fastest-moving areas of early VR development, with multi-user Rift cinema applications giving that community feel (hopefully without an "irritating teen texting through the movie" simulator) and the first virtual reality-based film festivals already a matter of history.

But most people aren't asking whether we're going to end up eating virtual popcorn watching our DVDs on a virtual screen. So - are we going to end up inhabiting our movies?

There are several pretty major obstacles in the way of translating movielike storytelling straight into full immersive VR. First, and most obviously, there's no frame. Filmmakers use the shape of the screen and the rules of composition within that to direct your eye to matters of importance within the story. Is the character who's talking right now experiencing an emotional change that's important to the story? Then I can fill the frame with his face. Is there an important piece of sleight of hand? Then I can fill the screen with nothing but a close-up of the magic trick in progress, to make sure you don't miss it and subsequently lose the thread of the plot as a whole.

In a true VR experience, you're looking at a panorama by default. The viewer can look at any of the participants in a conversation, can look anywhere in an action scene, can stare around at a vista and miss the key elements. It'd be entirely possible to miss the characters entirely if dropped into a "Lord of the Rings"-like landscape.

These aren't unsolvable problems. It's still possible to direct attention with other compositional tools like lighting, lines within the scene, and sound effects. Continuity of movement will play a huge part too. But in considering this, we hit a significantly larger problem: sure, we can get around the fact that we can't force our viewer's attention to a close-up. But how do we deal with the problem that we can't move or cut at all?

When I said earlier that people who'd just experienced VR for the first time tend to ask three questions, I was lying. They usually only ask one - "Oh, god, I feel a bit funny. Where's the bathroom?". It turns out that VR is spectacularly successful at two things: total immersion, and making you want to barf.

There's been a lot of research into "VR Sickness" recently, and the news isn't good for movies-in-VR. It turns out that one of the major causes of VR sickness is rapid or unexpected movement outwith the user's control. Users seem to be able to cope provided there's an obvious visual reason for the movement, but otherwise, movement you can't control sends you right off to talk to Huey on the big porcelain telephone.

So, for a filmmaker, that means no tracking shots, certainly no rapid flythroughs, and worst of all - no cuts. Cuts - film editing as a whole - are one of the most fundemental tools of movie storytelling, and removing them sends us back in time to the dawn of cinema, before Eisenstein, back to 1910 and the Kuleshov Effect.

So what's to be done?

Well, it looks like we're going to have to develop a narrative form which allows us to embody the viewer in some way. Needless to say, virtual reality porn is already a thing, and the approaches that are proving successful there may be instructive. (I'm not going to link to any, um, outstanding examples of the genre here, but the OculusNSFW subreddit has a good overview (NSFW, obviously) ).

So far, all reasonably workable VR porn adopts a "breaking the fourth wall" approach, either by having performers perform to the viewer and treat him/her as a voyeur, or more dramatically by placing the viewer straight into the scene with his/her viewpoint positioned where one of the actors' heads can be assumed to be. This ties in with both Oculus VR's best practise document, which recommends giving the VR participant a visible body in the virtual space, and some of the more successful game experiences in VR.

Half-Life 2, probably the most successful semi-narrative experience in VR so far, doesn't provide a visible body, but its story-based sections are startlingly effective because of their focus on and interaction with the player - to the point that a friend of mine nearly threw himself over backward when one of the game's totalitarian guards attacked him.

We're also going to have to either give extremely clear cues any time we want to move the viewer's point of view, or we're going to have to let them move themselves via a game-like interface. A rollercoaster experience has been shown to work in the Rift, but there's a limited number of stories that can be told whilst constantly giving clear movement cues - perhaps something set in a cab, with the player as silent observer. It might seem obvious that VR demands a much more game-like approach - indeed, that's what Roger Ebert suggested - but there are significant problems in crafting an engrossing narrative in which the most active participant is the viewer.

Half-Life 2, with its totally silent protagonist, and the experimental narrative game Dear Esther are probably the pinnacle of this approach. Other games mostly move to cutscenes for their dramatic development, and whilst that can produce extremely powerful results, it drags us right back to Vomit City, Population You.

So where to look? My current theory is that we need to look right back before cinema, to theater - and specifically to experimental theater. Playwrights and theater directors have long ago solved the problem of crafting a narrative that allows their audience to view it from any angle, and theater is ahead of any other artform in creating a narrative experience that neither relies on the viewer playing a central role nor ignores them utterly - drafting the audience as an element of the performance.

From street theater and commedia del'arte to Berdholt Brecht and the Theater of the Oppressed, it looks like it might be time for everything old in visual storytelling to be new again.

I'll be honest, I don't have anything like all the answers on this one yet, although I'm continuing to experiment - what do you think?

29 Comments

1:

This is all very interesting but I'm curious as to when the hardware goes mainstream. I looked at Occulus' Rift the other day but it was $300 for a dev kit. Their actual release hasn't happened and based on images I've seen from CES, they have a more updated model in the work. At what point does this hardware actually reach consumers?

2:

I believe that the release date is set for either late 2014 or early 2015 at this point.

3:

The Entertainment is an experimental Rift game by indie developer Cardboard Computer (also available in non-Rift format) which explores the concept of casting the player into the role of a (mute, seated) actor in a stage play. It's a free "intermission" released between "acts"/episodes of their current game Kentucky Route Zero (which itself does not support the Rift being a third-person point-and-click adventure game). It only ties into the main game's plot tangentially so don't feel like you need to play KRZ before you play The Entertainment.

If you want to get a sense of what the intersection between theater and games may look like more generally KRZ itself is worth a look. When the guys behind Cardboard Computer were designing the game they deliberately looked into theatrical influences, particularly into set design for inspiration in designing their game environments. The dialog is also all written in script format (with no voice acting) and most of the choices focus more around characterization than advancing the plot or solving a puzzle. KRZ pushes quite a few boundaries and if you are not bothered by slow pacing and limited interactivity it's something you should not pass up (also, take your time to explore; there's lots of side vignettes that are easy to miss).

4:

What will probably bite this in the butt is the more fidelity a medium has, the more the shortcomings stand out. I shall provide examples.

The early RPG games on computer were text only, you had to provide the scenery with your mind. Early sprites gave way to more advanced sprites. Eventually things went polygonal. But just as we are seeing more details, we're noticing just what's missing. Nobody could complain about how an 8-bit sprite's eyes looked dull and lifeless but this becomes increasingly of concern with elaborate 3D models.

The sprawling Bethesda games like Fallout 3, Oblivion and Skyrim are visually amazing but very empty. And as you play, it becomes increasingly jarring to keep running into the limitations of the game design. Characters have preset phrases, only so many quests can be had in a given location, and you will soon play out the content and have to move on lest you get endless repeating quests.

I've noticed that some games work better simply watching the longplay on Youtube than trying to go through it myself. And I think this brings us to the question of whether the creator is working in the right medium. Writing that is effective in a comic book format might be too sparse in a novel; material fit for a novel might fall to pieces in a comic book. It's hard to replicate a sight gag in print and impossible to convey a humorous description in film. Just translating this Douglas Adams line to film: "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

I think some stories might well work as an interactive experience, others might work better as passives. A common critique of early cinematography is that directors were too stagey, not taking advantage of the medium. And we still have the stage, even with a cinema in every home and in most pockets.

5:

Lacking a Rift myself, I can but speculate on what would be workable.

That said, I imagine that the first “Cinema in the round”, so to speak, would be machinima distributed in the form of game mods or map packs.

That is, rather than create the movie, and render it to ordinary 2D (or stereoscopic, I suppose) video, create the movie such that the engine's ordinary facility for scripted sequences can play it, and distribute the resulting files.

This would, after all, take advantage of existing facilities for allowing the audience to control the camera position.

6:

I wonder if it's possible to develop new techniques against motion sickness. For example, does it help if you don't use hard cuts but fade out into black and then fade in again over an interval of 1-2 seconds? Or for fly-throughs, display them through an in-world mirror, so that there's still a fixed outer reference.
It would also be interesting to test how it feels wearing an Oculus Rift under water.

7:

Whilst I disagree about Skyrim specifically (one of my favourite games of the last half-decade or so), you've definitely got a good point in general. I haven't even started to think about what stories will work better in the voyeuristic / 4th-wall breaking mode of a semi-interactive fiction.

I notice that an increasing trend in game narratives has been to look at the will to violence inherent in the medium - perhaps that sort of "peer into the abyss" story is one that works particularly well when the viewer is a collaborator rather than a passive observer?

8:

@kythyria - yes, I'd agree - and indeed, I'm intending to test that approach soon. Interestingly, it might well be the case that it's possible to render some of the oldest Machinima movies in the Rift with very little alteration, as they used that approach. Another case of "what's old is new again".

@tknott - thanks, that's very interesting. I shall check it out ASAP.

@Andreas Vox - all very good points, particularly considering fades. I shall have to try that out. I'll volunteer someone else's Rift for the immersion experiment, though!

9:

I recall that Mr, Stross has reported that he struggles with the camera movements in modern movies. Not nausea as such, but the limits of his eyes' ability to see the scene changing as fast as he does.

So is the Rift technology going to need new techniques, or just a rediscovery of old ones?

I hope the fashion for camera movement that came out of Blair Witch does end. I am not sure that would work for current 3D cinema, and my experience suggests that current 3D movies are long enough for eyestrain. Just the binocular vision may not be enough. There are other distance cues in the natural world.

There may be a tendency to exaggerate the binocular vision effect in current 3D use. Is that part of why we can get a sense of the scenery as cardboard cut-outs? W pick up on prominent edges, and that fairy-tale castle on the hill contrasts in so many ways with the forest on the hill beyond.

It's possible that 3D worlds are lacking some of the depth cues of the real world which would make a difference to the effects of the Rift-tech. There's more to aerial perspective than the fine detail getting too small to resolve. The colours actually change because of atmospheric dust and moisture.

10:

Immersion in VR can be greatly increased using embodiment techniques, as pioneered by Ehrsson. This requires full body tracking to animate a first person avatar. Induction using synchronised touch of the real and virtual body, and visual feedback from virtual mirrors can produce such strong embodiment that people adapt their behaviour and even visuospatial perception.

This is quite far from the Rift at the moment, but another generation or two of Kindest might change that.

11:

I feel that the rift would be excellent for exploring second person perspectives. Particularly useful in a theatre like piece.

You're Richard III's silent confidant, he motions for you to come closer as he outlines his plots. You race to keep up as he monologues TO you! The idea that you have to move along with the protagonists or the plot will leave you behind could be a novel way of controlling pace and narrative tension.

12:

Although the question of VR as a narrative medium is an interesting one, I suspect framing it as "what future for VR movies" is not helpful, and motion sickness is the least of the issues there.

'Movies' is short for 'moving pictures show' with the central premisce that you will be *shown* stuff, i.e the viewer is to be *led* through a narrative with a definite viewpoint. Anything that departs from that core concept may be very well worth exploring, but is no longer a movie, and should not attempt to ape those.

With that said, you could certainly show a movie through a VR rig (and it has been done in VR movies theatre setups), although that doesn't make it a VR movie : it's a VR theatre experience, just like setting up a single, fixed-frame camera in front of a live theater stage is not making a live stage movie, it's merely taping a live stage theatre play, artificially gimping a medium to emulate another.

Telling stories in a VR environment where the viewer can interact / interfere with the action is a VR game by another name, so that's probably not what you have in mind, either.

That leaves open the matter of storytelling and spectating in a context where the audience has control (complete or partial) over its own viewpoint, yet is otherwise passive (in that she has no agency or means to affect the story itself), which is exciting but fraught with major implementation issues :

1/ The sandbox problem : assuming a wide range of freedom granted to the viewer, much more art assets and extra content would need be created and polished than are required in a movie-style controlled viewpoint setting, and every little detail amiss would have the potential to detract from (or ruin) the overall experience.

2/ Not everybody's a director : movies have a viewpoint and an author's voice (through stage direction and photography), not just as a necessary evil born of the medium limitations, but because at least half the value comes from *how* the story's told. Trusting any/most viewer(s) to look at the right thing at the right time pretty much requires to dumb down the script to the point there's only one thing happening at any given time, preferably garishly highlighted.

3/ A director a spectator isn't : much in the same way that people busy making pictures for souvenirs are less likely to meanwhile interact meaningfully with their exotic surroundings and company, busying oneself with finding the right angle or PoV on a scene is that much time and attention not devoted to the following of the story and characters.

The alternative viewpoints route may be interesting, and has occasionally been done in movies and TV, (re)telling the same story or bit alternatively from the perspective of different characters or witnesses, but then again, it's a very constraining gimmick, story-wise, and adding 'full' VR could prove more of a curse than a blessing for the writers and set designers.

To finish on a positive note, I can see one set of circumstances where a full VR perspective could add value worth the trouble, and that's in after-the-facts, forensics style examination.

Being able to examine events from every angle after the main events have unfolded and are known to the audience would partly solve issue #3 above, and may be an interesting way to gain deeper insight into he context and circumstances the main storyline merely touched upon.

Newscasts, sporting events and historical recreations are obvious prime targets for that sort of approach, and it even allows for some authorial / editorial voice on the creator's part by adding helpful contextual hints : "You don't see any women or black people in this historical assembly because at this time and place, society was heavily segregated -- as a matter of historical record, and not because the designers are raciss' -- please jump to this other viewpoint to check out same events from subgroup X perspective."

In a nutshell, the power of VR (as a non-agent spectator) is in immerssiveness and freedom of viewpoint, and nowhere can it shine more than as (self-)educational support material.
...as for telling stories movies-style, I reckon it's a self-defeating proposition.

13:

I'll volunteer someone else's Rift for the immersion experiment, though!

What, your OR isn't water-proof? ;-) You can try zero-gravity instead, then.

Another idea for fly-throughs: create a hangglider perspective with the avatar's hands visible on the control frame. Then give the viewer something similar to grip on and see if it helps against motion sickness.

14:

Hmm, interesting! There's a fashion for breaking the fourth wall in serious drama at the moment anyway - everything from "House of Cards" to "The Originals" is doing it to some extent on TV. Perhaps that's all that's needed to make a Rift narrative work.

Certainly, there would be a thrill to having Ian McKellen or Kevin Spacey suddenly turn around in a virtual space and appear to be addressing you personally. And beyond that, it's a great opportunity for great actors to deploy a side of their abilities that rarely gets any use outside of audiobooks - that of the storyteller, rather than the actor.

I'm also thinking here about Patrick Rothfuss's "Name of the Wind", which has a framing narrative which could easily be adapted to Rift. Indeed, just about any first-person-narrator story could - and thus, could solve a lot of the usual filmic problems of not being able to reveal the character's inner life.

Hmm... I think I feel a script coming on...

15:

An alternative could be Enhanced Theater (or musicals) rather than Enhanced Films. The heroine casts spells, the monster emerges and its all enhanced rather than replaced.

The oculus seems to work better when people are sitting down, so sitting down games like pilots or drivers (Euro Truck Driver, Elite Dangerous, Lunar Flight, Eve Valkyrie) seem to work better as you're not being forced to move around. Extend this into film and you'll get a slightly weird event where you're the king or judge watching events unfold around you. Rather than The Mousetrap or Sherlock its more Crown Court.

16:

Games have to deal with a lot of these problems. Attention attractors. Consistent visual languages. World boundaries. Triggering events when the player looks at them.

'Gone Home', who's developers I know, is a long way toward being a sort of VR movie (using the software version of VR: FPS camera and controls). A lot of games have short segments of this, with various degrees of viewer control.

One thing i don't think has been mentioned is pacing. Losing control of pacing is HUGE. A lot of the solutions for other problems involve weakening the authors control of pacing.

17:

I think VR is much closer to immersive theater experiences like Punchdrunk's "Sleep No More" than it is to any other medium. It takes place in 2 warehouses in NYC, 100 rooms, and 5 different levels. There are 21 dancers who are doing an interpretive dance of MacBeth without any dialog, and they are running from room to room interacting with different scenes and characters.

The audience has masks on, and so they're anonymous voyeurs to the main action. Each audience member can choose an actor or to explore the immaculate setting, but it's each person's choice to decide what to pay attention to. There's also a wisdom of the crowds effect that happens as well where if there's 10-20 human beings watching something, then you'll likely want to see what it is that they're paying attention to. So focus can be passively voted upon by other audience members based upon where they're at in the environment and what they're looking at.

The narrative loops through 3 times, and you're catching bits and pieces of it -- so it's like a puzzle that you have to put together after-the-fact. In other words, it's impossible to experience the narrative in a linear fashion, and you can only capture fragments. A looping narrative seems to be a necessity in this format, and would translate nicely to VR. A nice side effect is that once you experience it once, then it makes you want to debrief your experience with other people to see what they were able to see, experience and figure out. Considering that there's absolutely no dialog, then it helps to be somewhat familiar with MacBeth to be able to identify the characters. In the case of "Sleep No More," watching MacBeth beforehand helps you figure out who's who and what's happening.

Incidentally, you could have a multiplayer mode where there are other live audience members watching at the same time. Or you could record the paths and gaze points of previous audience members and then mimic having a huge audience for your experience of the theater show. Take a look at the Time Rifters game to see how this plays out. You run through a level once and then you run through the same level a second time where you have all of your actions from the first time replicated. You have to run through a level a total of four times with your previous three clones in order to have enough firepower to defeat the level. Something like this could apply to an immersive VR theater experience where you could experience the theater show along with previously-recorded audience members actions and gaze points. This could help highlight what to pay attention to. Or in the case of Time Rifters, you could have your own previous paths and gaze points included, which would be pretty awesome.

Like I said, there is a certain amount of audience voting that happens to determine what to pay attention to, and who to following through the 100 rooms and 5 floors. Cast members are running from room to room to interact with other characters. You can follow a major MacBeth character who interacts with other major and minor characters. And the minor characters turn into major Hitchcock characters when they're not a minor character in a MacBeth scene. So every character has their own developed plot line.

One of the themes of video game being converted to VR is that there's a lot that's hidden that needs to be developed and revealed in VR. For movies, one of the thing that may need to be revealed are those plot lines of minor characters and what's happening at the same time as major character stories. You'd need to have multiple story lines happening at the same time, and it should be perfectly okay to watch just one character for the entire time. Incidentally, "Sleep No More" makes it impossible to follow a major character the entire time since they disappear through various off-limits sections. So it forces you to explore around the environment more.

"Sleep No More" was one of the most immersive and peak experiences of my life, and I feel like VR is going to have a lot more of these in this type of format.

I did a write-up with more details here that talks a bit more about the flow state that I had here:
http://kentbye.com/post/11478273160/sleep-no-more-is-a-synchronistic-initiatory-experience

18:

Well, here's the thing with Skyrim. I think the worldbuilding is fascinating. The problem is that they spread too little jam over too much bread. There's a number of locations that you can "base" yourself in, buying a house, having the right shops, etc. And because of this they have to provide a superficial level of detail not just in one town but across the entire realm. So yes, I meet the female blacksmith in the first big town and I wonder at what the plot held for us in the future. Nothing. Then we have dozens of companions we can take on our adventures. Some of them were quite humorous but there's still a limit to the prerecorded banter had with them. It might have lasted the entire game if they concentrated on one or two primary companions but they didn't.

The entire conflict with the natives of the land and the complexity with how the imperials came north and established their kingdoms, how this interplays with the stormcloaks and the rebellion, it's the stuff for a great epic but kind of gets glossed over as you go through it.

I put a freakishly great amount of time into playing this game but the rough spots really chaffed. I'm still in love with the land, the visuals, wandering around through it. But it feels like more could have been done to make it feel peopled, to make it feel alive.

I think probably the greatest lost opportunity is that they aren't making expansion packs that really add to the complexity of the world. You would think after the heavy lifting of building out everything is complete, it would be easy to keep adding expansions to really flesh things out, the same way it works with D&D. Ok, fine, you've got Skyrim. Now you have the Black Company expansion where you play a mercenary captain whose come with his band to seek their fortune. The next module has a rebellion with more content and quests.

As for the best storytelling concept for VR, it's hard to say. Consider the present state of interactive fiction. Text adventures were big back in the day but nobody is doing much with it beyond obscure hobbyists. Why? I have no idea. The Call of Duty games essentially play like action movies having dropped most of the play mechanics of the early shooters. Unlimited ammo or having so much you will never practically run out, automatically regenerating health, etc. But nobody is doing much with text adventure.

Graphic adventure games pretty much died in the modern era. Sierra stopped making Quest games years ago. Grim Fandango was the last great LucasArts adventure game. The Walking Dead is now occupying that sort of niche, taking advantage of the latest in 3D engines to generate an interactive movie experience. It's very popular.

The Japanese love their dating sim games but they've made very little penetration into American markets. Full motion video games like 7th Guest pretty much died just as CD-ROM's became ubiquitous.

TL;DR There are many game genres that are perfectly possible to make but nobody bothers with. It's not entirely clear why nobody does. Is it a failure to analyze the market properly? Barbie Dreamhouse and that sort of girlie game outsells Grimdark Military Shooter 3 by a ridiculous amount but most game companies only concentrate on the shooters.

My prediction: someone is going to do a mashup of a Harlequin romance and a Japanese dating sim and target it at American women. Our smartphones are more than capable of running some fairly advanced graphics. Run with the dating sim angle, make conflict be emotional and not violent, make use of modern graphics, I think people will be sucked in and the game will be raking it in from the app stores.

By way of reference, the Walking Dead trailer. None of this is pre-rendered, it's all in-engine cinematics.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhL776xz9YU

19:

http://www.gizmag.com/virtuix-omni-treadmill-vr/27214/

Also for reference, Rift combined with an omnidirectional treadmill for even more immersion.

20:

That sounds superb - a lot like a freeform LARP in some ways (particularly some of the most complex ones like "The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste"). Is it annual? I might actually have to scheme to be in NYC when it's happening if so.

21:

Great posts!

Would suggest better, more realistic sound as an anchor for immersive (currently mostly visual) VR movies. Most people are able to navigate/orient themselves just by sound.

A deep-sea, scuba diving scenario/story setting could also get people used to complete 3D-360 degree movement. Use this as a preliminary 'training' for subsequent deep-space scenario games/movies.

22:

Filmmakers might be learning the shaky-cam lesson - Pacific Rim's giant robot cinematography is so much better than Michael Bay's Transformers in part because Guillermo del Toro stands his camera far enough back to let you see his creations in action.

I have an inkling quite a few of the perspective problems with 3D movies come from the fact many aren't actually filmed in 3D - they're converted afterward. There seems to be a tendency to skimp on the process (see: any review of the Last Airbender live-action movie, which was apparently unwatchable because the 3D conversion left it too dark, quite aside from its other... qualities).

23:

I agree that theatre might well show a way to go. One of the most effective dramatic presentations of any sort I've ever seen was a "promenade" performance of Julius Caesar by the RSC. Although less realistic than good special effects, the closeness and atmosphere made it more real - people fainted during the "Kneel, Romans, kneel, and let's wash our hands, up to the elbows, in Caesar's blood and smear it on our swords" bit. They had stage hands ready to catch them. I felt a bit odd myself.

As someone has said though, this couldn't be pre-rendered. You'd need to render it on the fly and track the viewer moving around - at least a bit.

But that's probably to start - cinema started off aping theatre but rapidly developed its own "language". I'd expect VR drama (if it does take off, which I don't think is guaranteed) to do similar.

24:

Filmmakers might be learning the shaky-cam lesson - Pacific Rim's giant robot cinematography is so much better than Michael Bay's Transformers in part because Guillermo del Toro stands his camera far enough back to let you see his creations in action.

Ok, I've not actually seen "Pacific Rim", but Michael Bay's close shot, fast cut style does annoy me. To the extent of stopping me watching or buying fims he directed and I might otherwise enjoy.

25:

Watch the Matrix again. The first one. The scenes are hand-crafted. Much of the effects were practical. You felt like you were in the story. Fast cuts and close action, that's lazy.

I can't wait for movies to get good again.

26:

"Watch 'The Matrix' again"? Must I? I sort of agree your point, but so much of it now seems like Gnosticism, or effects that Hong Kong cinema had been doing for years...

27:

I tend to think that VR won't succeed in the home market for anything but games unless - big unless - we get some kind of technological breakthrough in holograms or direct laser projection onto the retina.

3D movies work because we're accustomed to sitting in a dark room and not moving. It's a deliberately passive experience.

3D gaming and simulation works because the people wearing the headsets are actively involved. You're not a passive spectator, and there's more payoff for putting on the encumbering (and dorky) headset. But games are not telling a story - there may be a back story, but that's not the game. (Eg chess has no back story at all, and has been a huge success.)

But, and this is by no means an original observation, 3D TV hasn't taken off because it's neither one nor the other. We aren't as invested in TV as we are in watching a movie. (Well, maybe in the pre-home recording days we were, but that's a long time ago.) The expectation is that TV is something you can choose your attention level, walk in or out, check your phone while watching. Putting on a headset is just too much work.

I don't see that the availability of headsets like the Oculus Rift (and I do have one myself) is an improvement on existing 3D TV glasses.

I think VR will require a game design approach, not movie making.

28:

I think promenade theatre (action around a obliging and mostly passive audience) is an obvious model to work from. I do think you have to remember that although some viewers will want to have value-added fun "breaking" the intended narrative, looking behind the virtual scenes, etc. that for the most part you can assume the complicity of your audience. We want to be entertained. Cue us and we will try to play along.

Hugh, I unearthed an ancient (previous millenium) article where I wrote a bit about this kind of thing.

29:

"Sleep No More" originally ran in Boston, a coproduction of Punchdrunk, an experimental London group and the ART. After a hugely successful Boston run (which I saw several times), it moved to NYC, where it seems to have become a fixture. They run *9* shows a week. I presume they must have a significant number of understudies, if not two full casts (or more!), as the show is hugely physical for *all* the performers.

I can't recommend it highly enough. Order tickets well in advance, as sell-outs were quite regular last time I checked.

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This page contains a single entry by Hugh Hancock published on February 10, 2014 7:21 PM.

Minecraft, The Sims, And The Future Of Filmmaking was the previous entry in this blog.

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