Virtual reality is changing the world, one industry at a time. As it continues to evolve, it provides new and immersive experiences that engage the senses of the viewer.
Today, filmmakers are exploring this medium and using it to tell compelling stories that viewers will surely never forget. VR has a powerful ingredient that conventional filmmaking can’t leverage — the viewer’s presence in the actual story.
What is Virtual Reality Filmmaking?
The traditional rules of filmmaking don’t apply to the world of virtual reality. Filmmakers need to redefine writing, shooting, cinematography, sound, and editing. With VR, viewers see the narrative unfold differently from conventional films; thus, the creative process behind them must be reshaped to cater to this new format.
Virtual reality filmmaking provides an entirely new way of experiencing video content. Viewers see the story unfold as the central character. They are placed in a 360-degree virtual world that they can explore.
That’s why filmmakers have to set new rules. Aside from creating the scenes, they must develop the virtual environments that viewers can explore. These have to be dynamic and interaction-rich, allowing viewers to make their own experiences within the film.
Filmmakers who dabble with VR must learn to create immersive experiences through the virtual worlds where their narratives exist. They need to come up with new script formats to make their stories more impactful. With VR, there might not even be a need for a dialogue, much like with the documentary series on climate change from directors Eric Strauss and Danfung Dennis.
Virtual Reality Films
At the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival, Strauss and Dennis showcased a four-part documentary about climate change. These installments showcased the destructive effects of this global phenomena on our planet through a 360-degree virtual sphere. Viewers experience the consequences of global warming as they are transported from one part of the world to another. As mentioned, there’s little need for words as the virtual environments themselves tell their own tragic stories.
It seems like it has become a trend in virtual reality filmmaking to address pressing global issues and to inspire positive change.
Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, created a VR film called Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible), which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017. It tells the story of immigrants from Mexico and Central America who dream of a better life in the United States. Once viewers put on their virtual reality headsets, they get to experience the fear and dread of crossing such a dangerous landscape.
Every time, VR proves to be a great medium for raising awareness on critical subjects. But will it be able to replace traditional cinema?
Strauss believes that virtual reality filmmaking provides a great way for the public to connect and relate with socially-conscious narratives, but it might not be able to overtake traditional cinema. Though VR might make these narratives too intense for some people, hopefully, it will encourage them to respond in a positive way to such issues. Much like other VR filmmakers, Strauss hopes that their films will prompt people to take action.
Virtual reality filmmaking is on the rise. The format is being used to address global issues, and it has caught the attention of the filmmaking industry. Though this new form of storytelling is new, it will continue to evolve in the coming years. One day, there might even be a category at the Academy Awards for VR films.