They say you shouldn’t hijack the head-tracking data stream of the Oculus Rift; visuals should not be separated from the human vestibular system…but rules were meant to be broken. Why? because there’s so much more to VR than gaming.

This is not to say games aren’t becoming movies! I found myself strangely immersed in Naughty Dog’s “Last of Us“, more than any tent-pole movie I’ve seen in the past few months. Such is the power of CG movies, un-canny valley be damned.

Defining a language for 360 look-around movies:

You know how it all began oh so long ago (OK, 4 years ago) when the language of film-making was being defined / re-written for S3D. Well, time for a re-write again. Immersive 360 film-making is set to explode; geared for an audience of teens to mid forties – at least at the start, and telling stories in this medium is quite a different skill-set to master.

Citizen Kane, back in the day, although a 2D film, had given enough clues to modern 3D film-makers on how to effectively use the medium of S3D… but no one really had the patience to listen. Lighting, Depth of field and yes – even hijacking the head-tracking stream can work when creating movies on a 360 canvas.

When I started investigating this exciting medium a few months ago, alarm bells would go off when I asked on Oculus Rift / Game Engine forums about intercepting head-tracking and orientation info of these devices, but that’s because so far it’s only games that have been designed for VR. It’s soon becoming evident that apart from the gimmicky interactive look-around voyeuristic possibilities offered by the medium, serious Directors and storytellers will look at retaining control of the “frame” if they are to be enticed into creating movies in Virtual Reality.

So what could an immersive 360 Director’s tool-box look like?

  • Lighting – With the temptation to look around a scene, a Director and VR DoP can use the age-old technique of spot-lighting areas of importance.
  • 360 Positional Sound – Wait until Dolby Atmos gets interested – Chances are an Atmos SDK might already be in the works to create scound-scapes that can aid in directing an audience’s attention.
  • Depth of Field – The pet peeve of Steresoscopic 3D film-making, unless done correctly. This technique is worth exploring in an immersive 360 environment, to guide audience attention. At least it won’t be a lead-by-the-nose experience, as it’s sometimes abused by inexperienced DPs and Directors on 2D films.
  • Limiting the Horizontal FoV – There is no rule per se that every scene should feature full wrap-around 360 views of the scene for the audience to explore. The horizontal field of view can be restricted for certain shots. This is a creative call, and is what will contribute to the flavor of the overall movie experience being crafted by the film-maker.

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