A mere ten years ago, the idea of a small video marketing agency like ours plotting a course into virtual reality content was a pipe dream. Like a group of scrap metal enthusiasts plotting a course to one of Jupiter’s moons.
And yet, in defiance of expectations, VR content creation is now within reach for any tech-savvy film crew with a capacity to learn, and a few thousand dollars to spare. And it’s only going to get more accessible.
But why bother with such a radical new content platform? Especially given the fickle nature of modern technology – what guarantee do we have that VR will still be around in 5 years? To answer that, it’s necessary to understand the broad strokes of the technology itself.
Before it was readily available to consumers, most of us knew VR as a funny-looking headset that induces comical reactions of wonderment from the elderly on YouTube. However, even now after the public release of virtual reality consoles like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR, many people still haven’t tried it.
Much like 3D glasses or HDR displays, it’s impossible to understand the novelty of VR without actually experiencing it in person. Plus, most sci-fi films that portray virtual reality (The Matrix, TRON, Lawnmower Man) tend to play out as cautionary tales about the dangers of messing with perception and the human brain.
Fortunately, when it comes to the VR experiences of today, no brain interface or spinal headjack is required. There's no bio-hacking trickery here, just familiar tech in a more unified package.
Most concerns in the realm of modern VR fall under the category of “When will my friends get VR so I can play multiplayer?” or “Will my great aunt get vertigo if I put this headset on her?”
And that’s the thing – as more consumers try the platform, they’ll realize that their suspicions of futuristic mind-hacking are unfounded, and they’ll see the true potential of VR as we have.
So why are we at Flight Creative Media so jazzed about creating content for the VR platform? In a word: immersion.
No matter how big or high-resolution your TV set gets, it’s still a screen – a stationary object anchoring your movie to one location in your living room. That’s the main factor that will always take you out of the experience. If you can see the seams that separate the content from the real world, your mind will always know it’s fake.
VR exists to eliminate the visible seams. First, it fixes the content right in front of your face. Given how accustomed we are to being able to look away from the TV screen, having the screen move with you is the perfect way to fool your brain into thinking you’re actually standing in the location you’re seeing. But here’s the kicker – thanks to advanced head-tracking technology, your head movements actually effect the image you’re seeing. So let’s say you’re looking straight ahead at a virtual cityscape at night. If you tilt your head up, you won’t see a cityscape anymore – you’ll see stars. Look down, and you’ll see grass at your virtual feet.
That’s the immersion we’re talking about. But that’s also the challenge. Adding layers of immersion to the user experience also means adding layers of difficulty for content creators. So how does VR content actually work for filmmakers? Creating virtual worlds is one thing – how is it possible to film scenes for VR in the real world?
Next week we'll dive into VR from the perspective of content creators. We'll cover some of the more fascinating aspects of how VR actually works - the equipment needed to capture footage, new developments in Apple's push toward VR readiness, and how filmmakers are already using VR tools to fundamentally change the way we convey ideas and consume media.