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VR

A demo of Tilt Brush, bright colours

We Went To The FilmVic VR Industry Day

By | Innovation, VR | No Comments

We got to participate in Film Victoria and ACMI’s free VR Lab as part of the VR Industry Day, November 2016. Producer Simon J Green was a successful VR Lab participant and, thanks to those kind organisers, had the opportunity to develop our VR concept with a range of experienced VR content creators from VRTOV, Sandpit, StartVR, Grumpy Sailor, Visual Playground and PLaTO Reality. Here he is, letting you know what it was like.

First I wandered around the playground of VR experiences and demos, trying some I’d done before like the excellent NYTs solitary confinement piece, and new fun like the carnival games in Vive that were just good old fashioned, Wii style fun.

Finally got to try Collisions, the first VR film with stories from Aboriginal Australians. The possibilities of such incredible spaces and people were under-utilised, but the highlights were the drone shots as Nyarri Morgan used his fire craft to light the scrub and the central element of the nuke going off as Nyarri told his story. His story was the best part, and I’d have loved to see more focus expanding his story into a visual, 360 medium. Awesome to see it all coming together and paired with ILM.

The session with the other creators was the best bit. Everyone, even the mentors, acknowledged we were all so new and fresh in this, so everyone was learning from everyone else. Still, we got great tips on the little things you can only discover through practical creation. And then I met three groups of people I’m now collaborating with.The workshop was an excellent leveller. There were older, more experienced traditional filmmakers in the room who, frankly, have not been the most open and willing in other settings, but who in this space could only be at the same level as the rest of us. It broke down some very tired, rather useless hierarchies, allowing us to all connect as creatives.

Something I took away was feeling that my team are making great progress in the business and distribution side of the industry, which is giving me so much confidence going forward as we turn The X Gene into a dedicated VR company. That came from, again, openness and a willingness to share both the ups and downs of our experience. As a result, those who saw my strengths, I could see strength in, and we came together to work on stuff after the lab.

I could feel our relative beginner nature, but in this context it was completely appropriate and appreciated, because we’re all starting out. What I loved was the openness. Our industry, I’ve found, keeps their doors closed, but with newer generations of makers and technology, those barriers are breaking down. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was delighted with the people I met, both the other participants and the mentors.

Enormous thanks to FilmVic and ACMI, and all the mentors and companies who gave their time, gear and expertise to the days. We’re creating a new medium with people around the world, and finally, Australia is participating on a relatively equal footing. For now, enjoy an egalitarian medium.

360 Video Test: Directing Viewers’ Attention

By | Innovation, Video, VR | No Comments

In a medium where the viewer chooses where to look, the 360 video director and cinematographer must use far subtler cues to ensure the important beats of a story are seen. In 2015, The X Gene and Virtual Reality Ventures worked together on a test shoot, attempting to bring the viewer into a high-action scene but still keep their attention on one point. If you’ve been inside a headset, you know you can look anywhere: up, down, to your left or right, or turn and look behind.

Here’s the result, and after the video, our observations:

The camera does not choose

In 2D filmmaking, action is planned, but the camera then moves around that action, filming different angles in short bursts. Often, the action is manipulated or cheated to get the best results when it’s all cut together. In 360 video, it’s all about the action first, with the camera almost (and in our case actually) a character to be considered as part of that action. It moves through in one long take, as everyone moves around it. A cinematographer doesn’t choose how to shoot, but rather how to move through action, choreographed like a performer.

360 video is way more like theatre

The best way to plan a 360 video shoot is to first nail the location or set, then block out how the actors move and interact over a set period of time. That is your scene. If someone fucks a take, you simply start again, but once you get it, done! So think like a theatre director whose audience is in the round, only the round keeps moving … or, to stretch the metaphor, the audience is reverse-in-the-round. Identify what is happening, where the stories are taking place and when the key moments of those stories happen, then block your camera to take your audience as close or far from those moments as is appropriate to convey meaning.

Think like a Renaissance painter

Two people run on either side of the camera. You only see one of them, so you follow her and discover she’s joined up with her comrade you never realised until now was on the other side of you. Now you watch those two run away into the distance. That’s how we made sure viewers, at the very start, were oriented the right way for the story. We picked an action sequence because that genre is the most raw, blunt way to convey story. There’s literally rising action, physically overcoming obstacles and the foe is actually vanquished to death. These codes and tropes let us use things like bullets to drag the eye, as viewers followed the stream of nerf pellets to see where they came from. This was most effective in our little twist, as we got the viewer to look up at a machine gunner, breaking away from the obvious and default eye-level as the bullets rained down. These are like live action, moving, temporal versions of how Renaissance painters directed the viewer’s eye around a canvas.

(Did you notice our director in plain sight behind the camera man during the headshot the end?)

Lighting is a thing OR Location & production design are huge

We picked our location deliberately, because the gantries on the second floor let us hide two giant 2k blondie lights that let us flood the place like we were sun gods. Lighting is totally doable, but you need to work harmoniously with location and production design more than any other medium.

Full trilateral 360° isn’t necessary

Nup. Especially not for anything you want the viewer to watch from a couch for a decent period of time. Looking behind you isn’t enough of a thing, we think, to justify using full, XYZ 360° vision, which is why we bought a 360 camera with 235° field of view: about the same amount of lateral movement you make turning your head from side to side.

This is just the start

We learnt way more during this test, and we’re gonna apply it and build on it in our next tests. Stay tuned, storytellers!