Interactive Film: The convergence of Film and Video games

Virtual Reality equipment has opened up the potential for filmmakers to create interactive experiences for viewers.  It is very influential on the market today, but should we move into it just because we can?

As hardware blossoms, both inside pcs and game consoles, and outside on our bodies as wearable technology, software developers, game developers, and script writers are able to plunge into a new stage of realism.  In 2012, Oculus Rift was a successful Kickstarter project.  It was such a looker that Facebook and Microsoft observed with intrepid interest.  Eventually, it led Microsoft to begin development in two different Directions: VR gaming (played through Windows 10), and HoloLens. The former is about virtual immersion for gamers, pulling them into a virtual world, and the latter is about pulling virtual reality into our everyday lives.  But with the advent of a stable Virtual Reality medium on the market, this has compelled a flurry of activity from several different startup companies.

Virtual Reality has always been geared toward gamers, since in VR, the viewer is the camera.  But what if a world could be created where the viewer could *interact* with the movie characters and environment?  This is not a game, and such movie experiences are already available today.  Oculus Story Studio is the HUB for the entrance of film into the interactive realm.  While I have not personally experienced the Oculus Rift, I can imagine it is immersive.  If you can picture a view that fill all of your peripheral vision, and is able to accurately track your head movements, you have the basic concept of Oculus Rift.  But what about the non-game content.  This is precisely the exciting part.  The focus for Oculus Story Studio is plot creation, which, in my view, is has greater potential in movies then in video games, because the audience is generally bigger.

And while Story Studio is treading on some new ground, many well-understood technologies will now have greater expression.  Motion capture is a technique used in film and, more recently, video games, to track the movements of actors precisely to their 3d counter parts, such as with Golem in the Lord of the rings trilogy.  But this is really only one side of the story.

The other side here is stereoscopic 360 filming.  Being dubbed 360 video, it looks a bit ‘jerry-rigged’, with several go-pro HD cameras placed in a geometric sphere.  Whatever your opinion on the appearance of the recording equipment, the unique experience is only exclusively known through a Virtual Reality headset.

So in one corner, we have 3d modelers/animators creating 3d words, with motion tracking sensors to put their 3d objects into real worlds, or real actors offering their fluid, lifelike movement to the 3d world.  And in the other corner, we have film makers capturing 360 film. Of course, with the compellingly immersive experience found inside the VR googles, there will be funding for some large-scale products.  But it will only continue if there is an audience to continue following the projects.

This has been a dream of mine since a very young age, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time.  Being able to interact in a virtual world, with things that do not exist in reality.  We could explore space, the human body, the deepest depths of the ocean, or the subtlety of our own emotion and morality as we interact with characters in future films.  I for one am stoked for this new precipice of film.  I am also a bit cautious, as we plunge into an uncertain realm of synthesis.  When the laws of physics are simulated, and the morality is from the minds of the plot writers and directors.

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