360 VR street scene

Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Bobsledding vs. Skateboarding

Beach Road, which was the basis for this post is available here.

I recently began work on a short film with Hiverlab. We shot on two days, each day from about 4PM to 6PM . Only natural light was used and sound was recorded by the six GoPros used. The rig and stitching were  a unique configuration being tested by Hiverlab.The director was Ender, from Hiverlab. I was the location scout and am writing the script/creating the story. The script will be written after studying the rushes and working closely with the composer/musician Chen YiQi. One actor was used, Alps Bethneck, the lead actor in The Changi Murals by Boo Jun Feng.

I will analyze the shoot  later. This post and four related posts are based on notes that I took upon seeing the rushes.

The first and strongest impression upon me: in 360 VR, the viewer is on a skateboard, so to speak, whereas the traditional movie experience is like bobsledding.

In bobsledding, the team goes down a track; the team being composed of both the film production organization AND the viewer.  Once the film is finished, the track (the sequence of scenes) is fixed. None of the team members can change anything.

With 360 VR, however, the viewer can deviate from the track that the director and production team  created. Though the goggles present a series of scenes in front of the viewer, the viewer can, obviously, look around in 360. So the idea of a "track" becomes inaccurate. I have heard the word "arena" being used instead of "scene", which would mean that in the world of 360, one does not watch a movie (a collection of scenes) but looks around a series of arenas.

Let me repeat this idea in another way.  In a movie a shot is a shot. Whether an interior or a landscape, the angle and composition are fixed forever. A sun setting behind a mountain will be presented to the viewer only in the composition and framing that the cinematographer recorded it.

With 360 VR, however, the viewer can look away from the sunset. Looking to the left the viewer may see other mountains. If the viewer turns his or her head to the right, he or she may see the town below. Physically turning completely around, the viewer may see a helicopter in the sky or whatever happens to be behind. (As I write this,I know that I am stating the obvious. However, even though I knew beforehand that 360 degrees means 360 degrees, it was like a revelation when I turned my head and body to look at the footage we had shot. In the future this will be no big deal. The future meaning tomorrow...)

Simply, when I looked at the rushes, I realized that  in terms of viewing the scene, I was somewhat in control. I could look at exactly what was being presented to me or I could look around. I learned and internalized the fact that directors, cinematographers and writers MUST begin to tell  stories in new ways in order for 360 to achieve its potential. After we looked at the rushes, Ender loaded this up, saying it was a good example of using 360.

So, bottom line: 360 VR requires that writers, cinematographers, audio people  lighting crews and directors constantly create dynamics that guide the viewer where to look. These are not problems, they are a chance to discover new possibilities. To always keep the action directly in front of the viewer is a wasted opportunity.

Second post in this series is here.

8 thoughts on “Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Bobsledding vs. Skateboarding”

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