27 Feb 2016
Virtual Reality (VR) is the new and hip market in the tech industry today. It is generally absorbing investor dollars. Like anything that is conceivably around the bend, people invest in what will produce a profit. But it is more then that. Virtual Reality can offer a new venue for the film-making industry. Firms that go from 2d and linear, to 3d and interactive. It is surprising that the video game industry goes under the radar in comparison to film. Certainly, there is some games that catch some news headlines, but often, games are the envy of only kids. The statistics are very much different. Adults also play; not just over-aged gamer addict bachelors either. People are playing games across the board.
Games have a stigma to them though. They conjure up pictures of distraction, procrastination, or uncontrolled parties. While non of these descriptions are untrue, it is not the whole picture. People not only hold full-time jobs as game designers, but some play games professionally. Games are big business. But games, for the most part, are for the fun. People to interact in a world that is foreign to them, and use equipment that they would simply never have access to. Presently, a new game these days costs about $60 USD, which is a hefty sum compared with box office tickets at around $10 USD. But the film industry has not neglected their CG neighbors. Many modern movies have implemented HD rendering in their final cuts, and have seamlessly woven what is real with what is CG. While computers are not capable of rendering in real-time what is done with films like The Hobbit or The Avengers, Current-gen game consoles are capable of delivering 4k resolutions at 60 frames per second, or close to it.
The reasons film directors shy away from doing more with CGI is are many.
1) The equipment/software is not cheap to acquire. Along with that labor costs take a heavy toll.
2) The natural look of the real world is still more desirable then a Computer-generated world.
There is certainly no reason to stop the bulk of the film style presently in use. However, the downside is that video games hold sway that film cannot by the fact that they open up the free will of the player to interact in the world. Video games are built to run in real-time with the player giving input based on preprogrammed stimuli. Games can get boring when they are too “linear”, and levels have to be beaten in order to carry the story on. The other side of the extreme is when they game literally sits still until the player goes and explores the world, meaning more time is required on the gamer’s part.
Is there a happy compromise here? Several games have left a large degree of explorability while still carrying out an overarching plot. However, where games shine in exciting action moments, film blossoms with a cinematic plot advance with memorable moments, immersing the viewer in the atmosphere, but more importantly in the relationships of the characters in the story. Games do this too, but for some reason, the big screen attracts a much greater audience. Can game engines tell a captivating, engaging, and memorable story? Can VR help? While movies can be viewed from behind the vision-filling lenses, they do not have the capacity to reorient the viewer if he/she wanted to get a closer look at the events transpiring in the movie.
Can film transfer into the realm of interactivity that video games claim, while perhaps even retaining nearly similar believability? Often, video games are intrinsically destructive. This is the captivating element of a video game. But the film industry recognizes people like stories. People want to witness the event as it had happened. With VR equipment, a viewer could be allowed to view the story from any perspective, while the story carries on. But furthermore, what if a voice-activated mic could be allowed to let the view interact with the characters. The algorithms required for computer-generated characters to respond to human input would have to be pretty incredible, but what’s Moore’s Law good for if we can’t start pushing story telling to new levels with the tech we now have available to us?