…that might as well have been the message that Don Cheadle had in his hand before he’s shot, replete with (positional sound) shrieking dame at the corner of the bar. The telegram is taken by his assassins just so word does not get out that audiences have been cheated so far by crappy 2D 360 video masquerading as VR.
I just came out of a “VR theater” and got teleported back to my study-room. What am I talking about? The first VR noir piece par excellence has been made. NYT with Milk(vr) have done a fantastic job with “Great Performers in L.A Noir.” Folks, this is it! This is what going to the movies in VR is all about, and it’s starting right at the beginning, almost like re-writing cinematic history. It’s got mood. It’s got atmosphere (literally) and Hollywood grade A talent in these VR film-noir shorts is the icing on top.
The video below is worthy of being viewed in all it’s 3D VR glory. Don’t shortchange yourself by watching it by finger flicking your phablet, using your mouse, or even on a Google Cardboard. You need proper RedCarpet attire (GearVR velcro headtie or Rift/Vive) for this gala VR FilmNoir presentation.
Artistically, technically and creatively, it ticks all the boxes on what would be minimum requirements to qualify as Cinematic VR.
I love the fact that it is a single location, well dressed set and yet carries off so many mini stories. One of my favorites is the last mini story, with Kristin Stewart.
That piece had the most atmosphere. You really feel like you’re on the ground. Look up and you can almost feel a faint plume of smoke curl it’s way through the shattered window, while outside the cops have their hand guns trained on the exit.
What NYTVR’s “Great Performers L.A. Noir” piece has going for it was:
- Near perfect Stereoscopic 360 presentation of the scene, which affords a high level of immersion and ‘presence’ in the bar to the audience.
- Great acting (natch!)
- Good sense of scale – I felt the people were stretched a little, vertically. Though, this may be an effect of aspect ratio and/or the fact that I was viewing it through an Oculus Rift (ripped Youtube version)
– The Blinds; they display stitch artefacts at times. But I don’t really care, since it’s looking for it on purpose.
– Ditto with the slight stereo anomaly when the two men are behind Don Cheadle.
– The monoscopic Nadir and Zenith – That’s why I say “couple of instances” not three. This was handled well. It’s a perfect example of understanding the limitations of your VR gear (Google Jump Camera in this case) and leveraging it to your advantage. The nadir and zenith are monoscopic and if you look, if you reaally look down, you’ll find something odd. You’re floating a lot higher from the floor than you’d expect. If you look up at the ceiling… well there’s nothing odd there. That’s because the filmmakers used the limitation to their advantage. The camera wasn’t placed under an overhead lamp, or anything other than black flat ceiling.
I’ve seen big budget VR films where the camera was placed for no reason whatsoever on top of tables, and at wrong height simply because it’s fashionable to be the first to do it in this new medium.
The advice here is: Sure, break rules, but take the time to see if your camera placement is ‘motivated’ by doing a previz take and seeing if it gels with the shot/scene before it, after it and then because it is VR, what is the role of the audience in that scene. (Yes, head hopping works well in VR)
For example: When Don Cheadle walks up to the bar why is the camera placed where it is and not above (with you looking down at him) or below the bar? Well, you could place it below the bar – in which case the Director would be suggesting the bartender (you) is cowering, and the script would have to reflect that. Or, you could place it so you were looking down at him, and thus suggest you’re about to hang yourself out of guilt or that you’re 6 feet 6 inches.(Things get interesting when doing interactive VR storytelling – but that’s a whole different topic which I explored here.)
Placing the camera where it’s supposed to be in context to the shot or scene has the advantageous side effect of not pulling the audience out of the experience. There is no physical distance between the audience and the screen like in a Movie Theater. The audience is in the movie. Guide of thumb – Place the camera where you like, but check that it makes sense in context to the shot before, the shot after and to the scene and narrative as a whole.
The definition of ‘Second Screen’ is about to Change:
The film noir look works surprisingly well in VR. Not an immersion breaker at all. If you were watching this in a cinema and halfway into the movie you were to put the headset on… you’d get an uneasy (in a nice way) feeling that you’re been sucked into the screen and living out the movie.
To make this proposition realistic, imagine if this were a full feature film for Home Theater. You could actually use your second screen (Vive/Rift/GearVR) and teleport into the movie. I predict this will happen within the next few years.
Cinema is going to go from passive to active, on-demand.
For now, there’s no question about it (imo), NTYVR and Milk(vr) have re-introduced us to the movies by letting us time travel back to the glory days of crime and drama and Film Noir – a genre perfectly suited for Cinematic VR and why I believe, Cinematic VR will be a genre in and off itself, incorporating the best of these styles of narrative storytelling.
I’ll leave you to explore how and why Film Noir is so well suited for Cinematic VR, in both camera work and as a genre, by visiting the full sized infographic, here.