Virtual reality offers a different view of cinema, TV and online video, but requires a rethink of traditional storytelling to make it work
This is the big one – the mother lode. If virtual reality (VR) can crack the world of cinema, it’s going to change movies, television… everything. Your nan will watch EastEnders on the sofa feeling like she’s in Cindy’s cafe. The sets will need rebuilding, because when your nan looks round she’ll want to see Ian Beale’s pasty face serving customers, not a cameraman and the mic boom operator. Cinema will be unrecognisable. Star Wars in VR? You’d be able to explore the Death Star like a tourist.
And the revenue? The studios will be salivating. When Avatar became the first blockbuster to really crack 3D at the cinema, it went on to be the highest-grossing film of all time. Just imagine what the first Bond film in VR would gross. Even Daniel Craig might be tempted back for a pay day of that magnitude.
But it’s an “if”. Right now we have no idea how film will translate to VR. No Hollywood movie has been shot in the medium. It’s too new.
What we have are glimpses. And they are tantalising. The music industry is just starting to play around with VR. The results are stunning.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers recently streamed a live concert from Berlin, viewable on Samsung Gear VR headsets or smartphones. Three panoramic cameras placed on stage with the band, the front row and above the crowd gave viewers a full view of the action. Icelandic singer Bjork has created a VR video for her song Stonemilker, which you can see on YouTube.
Leicester rock gods Kasabian produced one of the best-shot VR concerts live from Brixton Academy. Ambisonic sound meant viewers got a true sense of direction as they turned their heads. The concert was filmed by VR agency Visualise and even founder Henry Stuart is frank about the newness of it all.
“It’s incredibly hard to film in VR. Music videos are traditionally shot on incredibly high-end cameras. VR cameras are balls with lenses pointing in every direction. They are small, inherently. They shoot badly in the dark, so you need the house lights up which can’t always be done,” he says.
Streaming live footage is tough. Bear in mind that 4K gaming is beyond the computing power of almost all home PCs and VR can be even more intensive. He adds: “To get ‘presence’ when you forget where you are, VR needs to overcome a few barriers, one of which is resolution – it needs to be 8K on two screens. We’ll get there soon.”