“VR Movie Magic” Week 9 — July 20, 2016

Originally published on July 20, 2016 at carolliufilms.tumblr.com.

So it feels a little like the early silent film days. I’m faced with this incredible technology and all I’m trying to do is master tricks. Reminds me of the time of the Méliès brothers, putting all the spectacular phenomenon they could on film, like this lady performing the serpentine dance in Paris in 1896.

So, why focus on “tricks,” you might ask? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a recap of this last week:

I want to thank Intel for a temporary hardware and software loan towards the research and development of our project. This week, we received a Gopro Freedom360 rig, Autopano software and an Intel+NVIDIA powered station to stitch and render with. In exchange, we are testing all we can to design a 360 narrative video experience that provides compelling interactive choices for the viewer. We added other basic components to create our VR filmmaking arsenal, like tripods, sound recorders and lav mikes (we definitely look forward to complementing our project with 3D sound).

At the moment, I’ve been taking the equivalent of the early silent film steps aforementioned. First, I played around with perspectives. Below, we capture our surrounding countryside in spectacular 360 panorama in a “second person” test talk about nature. Second person here means acknowledging the viewer’s presence. You might think of an instructional video for reference.

We then experimented with “first person POV,” enabling the viewer to feel like a character in the story. While we were able to capture the effect of a character body (that the viewer can see when he/she looks down), we also experienced some difficulties with the seams of our stitch, which we will continue working on perfecting. Note the ghosting below.

This was followed by playing with “first person without a body,” different from second person in that you are still a character in the scene, just without a grounded body. In the following case, the camera was placed at a low level to simulate a child’s vantage point as she looked on at her parents. It was hard shooting on slanted horizon [image below is a crop of a spherical video. Earlier images were screenshots from Go Pro VR player].

My friend and technical partner at game development studio Tintash, who has graciously lent his support towards some initial R&D, also helped us consider how we might deploy gaze-based and hot-spot based interactivity in our developing narrative. At the moment, I’m writing specific scenarios to test unique interactive functions.

Regarding resolution, we’ve decided to aim for 8K so that we have high enough resolution to also be able to distribute on PC eventually. This coming week, I’ll pay homage to Méliès and do the equivalent of some of those early silent film tests to reproduce visual tricks that will probably be totally underwhelming in 100 years (like seeing an 1896 serpentine dance on youtube in 2016). Well, it’s the beginning of VR and we’ll just have to start at the beginning to inject some whimsy into VR 360 video narrative storytelling. I’ll keep you posted!