Hugh Hancock: February 2014 Archives

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.

What does the future hold for movies?

That's a topic that has eaten more column inches than Scottish Independence, the Kardashians and Bitcoin combined. But whenever I hear it, I can't help but think that the writer is asking the wrong question.

A better, more illuminating question is "What does the future hold for movie-making?"

Our Gracious Host has written a number of articles explaining how the mechanics of the publishing industry shape the kinds of books that come out of it, from the length of novel that is published to their covers. Film bends in the wind of its production process even more than written fiction. CGI technology opened up entirely new genres to the industry, "video nasties" appeared in the wake of a censorship gap and various distribution and strategy changes led to the rise of the blockbuster.

If you want to predict the shape of the sausage that is film, you've got to look at the mincing machine. And right now, there's something very interesting happening.

People pontificate a lot about computer games rendering film obselete. That's clearly rubbish. Movies aren't going to spontaneously turn into games. They're different experiences.

But movie-making might become a game.

One of the Hot Topics in the big media / tech crossover world recently has been data-driven storytelling. Wired breathlessly reported that Hollywood gurus have reverse-engineered a "formula for success" from audience data. Netflix has revealed its ability to data-mine genres that they already know their audience will like.

The most common reaction to all this Big Data Story stuff is horror. Even less spontaneity. Even more focus group driven cookie-cutter movies. Artists straitjacketed by polling data.

Cats and dogs living together. It's the end of the world as we know it.

And yet, I feel fine.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Hugh Hancock in February 2014.

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