Virtual reality is not the next big thing. It’s the current big thing -at least for independent filmmakers who are always on the prowl for exciting new ways to tell stories. Here at Raindance, we champion cutting-edge techniques that will be tomorrow’s mainstream. That’s why we’ve opened a VR strand at this year’s Raindance festival.
However, there is a confusion in terms. Sometimes you’ll hear about virtual reality (from Facebook’s investment in Oculus, mostly) or 360° video (from Google’s Cardboard app, mostly). So how about we clarify?
Many exciting things have been happening in virtual reality. You can roam the corridors of the Overlook Hotel or explore the infinite depth of a surrealist Salvador Dali painting. However these are computer generated. Virtual Reality experiences (from Samsung or Facebook’s Oculus) are all video game-based.
360 video is, no surprise, video content. They’re shot with 360°-cameras -the simplest such attire is two 220° cameras back to back together, which is the same width as the human eyes have. That makes difference in terms of perception, but also for what comes next.
Corollary to the previous point, virtual reality is inspired from video game experiences. Therefore you can do whatever you like in your VR environment. Go anywhere you like that has been designed.
360 will put you in the place of the camera, therefore you’ll be at the mercy of the filmmaker as a viewer. (Filmmakers, rejoice.) There’s the challenge for you filmmakers: what catches your attention when you’re in a room? How do you do light something differently or make a noise happen with the trickery escaping the omniscient 360° camera?
That’s also crucial. Unless you’re making an interactive film (tricky in 360), 360 content will let the filmmaker control the story and the timeline. The distinction is that 360 is immersive as opposed to VR which is interactive, and the timeline will be in the hands of the viewer -therefore giving them an escape from the tension you’re building in the story.
Now to the most important part. Story is where it all starts with. In a Virtual Reality setting, the viewer/player leads. With 360, as filmmakers, we need to keep control over the narrative and push it forward. That’s what happens with 360. The viewer is experiencing a story happening around him and not to him. The physical location then matters even more in 360.
Now get cracking on your 360 films!