Virtual Reality: The future of Film

The world of virtual reality is the new hot ticket in the film industry. Makers of the Oculus Rift recently debuted the first short film designed for Virtual Reality technology. Lost, a 5-minute interactive VR film, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

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The film is a real-time computer generated VR experience, that changes the pace of the story telling depending on the viewer’s actions. The film could run 3 and half to 10 minutes depending on your actions. It was a project directed by former Pixar animator Saschka Unseld, who created the 2013 short film The Blue Umbrella.

Oculus VR, a major leader in VR development, created Oculus Studio Story, a team dedicated to exploring and farthing VR cinema. It began when Oculus first demonstrated the Oculus Rift to Hollywood filmmakers. The technology got a buzz going among the industry of how it can be incorporated into storytelling. “We didn’t have an answer for them,” explained Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, in a recent press conference for Oculus. “We knew how to get started with games, but we didn’t know how to get started with film, with Hollywood, with cinema.” Lost is the first step Oculus is taking in taking on this challenge.

Virtual Reality, sometimes called immersive multimedia, is a kind of visual experience that replicates the experience of being in a real, 3-dimensional, environment. Virtual Reality environments can employ any number of sensory simulators, including sight, smell, and sound. Most VR environments are highly visual. The use of VR technology has been implemented in training, gaming, education, and therapy. Since around 2010, VR technology has also been used urban regeneration and planning and transport projects.

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Oculus VR was founded in 2012, and was recently acquired by Facebook for 2 billions dollars, even though their first product, the Oculus Rift, is still in development.

 The Rift is a head-mounted display designed for interactive and immersive virtual reality experiences. Oculus has released two developer kits since 2012, giving developers the chance to create content for the Rift, so when the consumer version is released in the summer 2015, there will be lots of content to enjoy. The Oculus Rift provides a point-of view experience,  the display acts as a field of vision, and places the viewer within a 3D space. The display responds to the movements made by the viewer. When you look up to the sky, the display changes what you see.

Another interesting aspect of VR development, that will be crucial to a powerful, immersive film experience, is VR audio. Companies are in development of creating 3D interactive audio worlds. Binaural microphones have recently made a huge comeback with companies such as 3Dio making microphones that replicate the way human ears take in and distort sound in a 3 dimensional environment. You can experience 3D audio and learn more about binaural microphones here.

While there are so many developments in the world of Virtual Reality, it is still only the beginning. It may be too early to say whether or not VR Cinema will ever become a household form of entertainment, or if it will remain a novelty. ”As excited as we are, I think it’s important that everybody remembers that this is just the beginning,” says Iribe. “The first time we made any kind of made-for-VR game, I wouldn’t say it was nearly as inspiring as what Saschka and his team have made, so it’s only going to get way way better from here going forward.”

To learn more, please visit the Oculus website, or pay a visit to the Virtual Reality showcase at the Toronto Hot Docs Film Festival on now until May 1st. The showcase has three environmental documentaries made entirely for virtual reality technology, and allows the public to gain first hand experience with the emerging medium.

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