One of my favorite quotes is from the show The Office, and involves the goofy, but goodhearted character, Andy reflecting on past times. The quote is one that summons a particular melancholy nostalgia. “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve left them.” Indeed, the future holds much progress, but will it ever feel the way that it does now?
While Andy Bernard was actually referring to his past with his friends at Cornell and subsequently Dunder-Mifflin, this testament can be extrapolated to include nearly everything. As nostalgic animals, humans tend to glorify the past once we’ve lived it.
As a human, nostalgic animal and filmmaker, I often put classic films on a pedestal, expressing the idea that modern film will never be able to capture the wonder and glory of the golden days of Hollywood. I know I’m not alone in that. Films like Casablanca, The Godfather, and Citizen Kane leave filmmakers often misty eyed over the idea of an age in which film triumphed and wasn’t held hostage by explosions and banal plotlines.
With the release of new technologies like the Oculus Rift, we venture into a new era of storytelling. In this new era, we’re forced to re-think the way that we guide an audience through a story and how we communicate ideas and concepts. Few seem ready or willing to step into this new field where the conventional rules we’ve grown to unconsciously use simply don’t apply.
The most elementary of techniques, the cut, is wholly abandoned in this medium. You can imagine the headache’s this causes for those steeped in traditional filmmaking ideology.
What can’t be forgotten is that with every challenge, we are gifted with the chance to advance our creativity. The opportunity to create an engrossing and all-encompassing experience has never been closer. Virtual Reality allows us to communicate stories in new ways that audiences haven’t experienced. Situations like this give the filmmaker a unique advantage over the viewer, as opposed to being at the mercy of the cynicism and critical eye of an audience that's used to the same old content.
These limitations set by the medium force us to make new rules about how to create film. We live in a time where we can actively set rules, just like those in the golden age of Hollywood did. This is a luxury that isn’t shared with every generation of content creators.
If you’re reading this, you’ve experienced the birth of HD, UHD and now (practical) Virtual Reality.
Are we not living the good ol’ days right now?
Check out this article by Nate Jones at Vulture.com for details and insight regarding the modern world of Virtual Reality.
Filmmakers Will Have to Adopt New Ways of Storytelling to Make Virtual Reality Movies
With the Sound and Visions series, Vulture explores the future of movies and the movie industry. We hope you’ll plug us directly into your cerebral cortex.
In the decades since, other films have borrowed the first-person conceit, but none have been able to perfect it. Take Hardcore (currently crowd-funding on Indiegogo), which bills itself as “the world's first ever action POV feature film.” The concept is cool — what if Crank had been filmed on a GoPro? — and the wide-angle lens cuts down on aspect-ratio FOMO, but its relentless forward momentum has the same odd, distancing effect. In the words of Film School Rejects, it feels less like real life and more like watching somebody else play a video game.
But as long as humans have visual cortices, we're going to want to make art that reflects the way we see the world. Now the technology is finally catching up. The much-hyped Oculus Rift headset has brought virtual reality to exhibition halls across the country; a consumer version is rumored to be coming next year. (Officially, there's no release date.) Other manufacturers, including Google, have come up with VR headsets that use your smartphones as a screen. In a few years, seeing someone strapped into a headset in public may be like seeing someone taking a picture with an iPad — weird and slightly unsettling the first few times, and then slowly more and more normal.
Jaunt is one of a handful of companies that has developed live-action virtual reality cameras; the hope is that live-action VR can feel more natural on the eye than CGI. But shooting a VR film introduces a panorama of hazards. Because VR cameras shoot 360 degrees, there's literally nowhere a crew member can stand without being in the shot. (So far they've gotten around this by ducking into shadows or hiding behind crates.) The lighting, too, needs to be natural, or at least disguised. And at this point, the technological hurdles are vast. To create the 3-D effect, Jaunt's camera needs to edit footage from 16 lenses together into one image; every second of footage takes 15 seconds to stitch. Even by the glacial standards of a film set, that's a lot of downtime.
Jaunt and New Deal Studios team up to shoot virtual reality film “The Mission”
Talk to anyone in the VR industry, and they'll tell you it's a very experimental time for the medium. It's unclear whether anyone will want to have a headset strapped to their face for two hours, or even what kind of stories they'll want to experience. So far, horror shorts and concert documentaries seem like natural fits, but Jaunt has tried its hand at a war film and a monster movie. Fox Searchlight just made a Wild short with Reese Witherspoon for the Rift, and even the porn industry has dipped a finger into the pie. A company called Total 360 Cinema is reportedly making the first VR feature film; it's a romantic comedy. Just like in regular Hollywood, nobody knows anything yet.
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(cover photo credit: snap from Vulture)