"In a way, we are magicians. We are alchemists, sorcerers and wizards. We are a very strange bunch. But there is great fun in being a wizard." ~ Billy Joel
Virtual Reality is like Modern Magic
Seriously... Think about it. I walk around with a Crystal ball on the end of a staff... it sees all around me and shares the view with the internet. Owning a personal VR camera is not only like being a wizard, it is pure field magic of the video realm. The eye is upon you...
Films, stories, videos, books; these things inspire and influence us. They give us characters to relate our own lives to. In ways, media has much in common with magical spells that can be cast on the human condition. We gather content in so many ways and arrange this content in patters and linear formats that offer perspective and alternative perception. Virtual reality is an AV medium that remains to be fully harnessed. It is an open frontier of the magic that is technology and storytelling. The more VR comes into our lives, the more I realize what a fantasy like world we live in.
I actually miss the prior model of the camera I own, the Samsung Gear 360. I had the first generation and it was a perfect little ball, it was slightly more appealing to my cosmetic nature. However, I understand the practicality of the changes they've made to the second generation. Now, the unit offers the ability to live stream to youtube and facebook.
So here I stand with a staff and a crystal like ball on the end of it. I raise it to the sky and use my mobile device to start live streaming what I see in a 360 degree radius so that the world can peer around from within my magic eye, thus providing a type of real time, magic mirror for social media... This is pure wizardry... and my mono-pod now resembles a tool of the mages in the most realistic and practical way I could have ever imagined. How is that not magic in it's full context?
New Approaches to Production
Recently, I was in Clearwater Florida and I was able to put my magic staff to the test. The result was the realization that modern, practical VR tools are ambitious, but compromise a quality that is essential to the standard VR experience. However, take a look for yourself and you will see how close we truly are. Bare in mind that it takes between one and three seconds to capture an impromptu image.
Peer into my crystal ball and see a 360 view of the Clearwater boardwalk from October!
Seeing that VR lifts certain limitations, a whole new range of issues comes up for producing content. Where should I put the camera? Is it legal? Will someone steal it? These are not deal breaking issues but they definitely dictate a unique approach to physical production. The frame is no longer just a single angle, but the angle wraps around the entire scene.
However, after some tooling around and experimentation, you might get into something like a new way to capture 2D images from a 3D composition in real imagery. The artistic applications are pretty vast in that sense. I decided to try some simple tricks in long exposures. You may want to sit down if you try it with goggles. Is this what would be considered "V-ART"?
The First VR Cinema
The real beauty in VR and consumer 360 cameras is the extended application of these tools. Augmented reality (AR) entails the mixing of virtual and actual realities. Up until now, much of AR has used advanced optics and CG to produce captivating and interactive experiences. Paramount Pictures has decided to step up to the plate. Partnered with bigscreenvr.com, they will be unveiling the first Virtual Reality Cinema... actually, releasing the first VR cinema is probably a more appropriate description. No, you will not be able to visit a physical cinema which presents VR, but rather a Cinema which exists in the online metaverse (Yes, Niel Stephenson was onto something big)
On December 29th, if you have a compatible VR headset, you can log into Steam, the Oculus or Microsoft store and download the Bigscreen VR app, and you will be able to watch TOP GUN 3D cross platform at pre-ordained showtimes. The entire thing is free other than the cost of the system you are running on (must have windows 10) and the goggles you would need (Oculus, Vive or Steam VR). The availability of the app will be limited, but aggressive expansion is planned for the first quarter of 2018. The idea is definitely going to offer insight into the aspects of augmented and virtual entertainment which work well, and those that don't.
Now, let's take a step back; what exactly does it mean to watch a 3D movie in VR? This is the real meat behind the event. 3D movies and televisions are not exactly "catching on" but this does not mean the 3D concept is dead. The concept is a bit confusing at first, but here's a better explination; The BigscreenVR Application is essentially a VR movie theater; concession, seats and all. You will even "walk" to the theater playing the film you want to see, like a real movie theater. There is no play or pause, it is live and starts promptly at showtime. Everyone will likely have a similar appearing position in the theater, but you will be looking at a 2D screen that shows Top Gun in a 3D format... this is very interesting because it will offer a new perspective of 3D in the cinema. iT probably looks very clean when compared to what we are used to. This begs the question: what will the concession stand be selling?
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, with the advance and flourishing availability of consumer VR products, the experimental and artistic applications may be a key pathway to unlocking the full potential of both AR and VR. These tools are already changing the way we approach history, science and law. Without a doubt, 2018 will answer many questions regarding the professional and consumer future of VR.
The opinions or ideas presented in this article are strictly those of the author. This article is in no way related or endorsed by any of the websites, people or organizations presented and/or mentioned within it.