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Graduated Stereo falloff in 360 – How to do it right:

As far back as 2014 (that’s like 10 in VR dog years), I’d described how graduated stereo falloff, could be used as a narrative storytelling tool for Cinematic VR. It’s safe to say that in 2014 everyone was learning VR. Even then, what I specifically had in mind is – you fade to black or cut to the next scene as your on-screen talent moves toward the 180 degree mark.

In the opening scenes of “My Brother’s Keeper” what we get is not even 180 degrees of stereoscopic VR while the rest of the scene is completely flat. This goes a lot against the idea of VR “immersing the audience” in a location. The anaglyph screenshot prepared above (click the image for a larger version) shows this.

I’ve drained the scene off color, so the areas of depth are more obvious – the areas showing red/cyan. If you are serious about stereoscopic 360 VR, keep a pair of red-cyan anaglyph glasses by your side. They’re the quickest way to look at and understand stereo visuals. Hang on to them as we’ll see one more glaring shortcoming in the shooting of this movie…

Before I go further… a Declaration/ Disclaimer:

My critique, is on the technical aspects of Cinematic VR – and rarely (if ever) goes into critique of story/acting. Secondly, if critique that’s being supplied with proof can’t be stomached, it’s best to stop reading and move to sites that gush at the fact that VR is a ‘new medium’ etc… or worse, if it elicits the “those who can’t do, preach” response – then rest assured, the remainder of this article won’t pander to such ill informed tastes. If all movie critics were to make movies…

..but getting back:

Shoot with synced cameras in VR:

That very same august 2014 article linked to above, had one more in-valuable piece of advice: make sure your stereoscopic VR/360 cameras are genlocked. GoPros, off the shelf, aren’t genlockable. Time code and slated sync is not “genlock sync.” See the video above for the subtle – yet  headache capable – effect that can occur in a VR headset when watching unsynced, especially stereoscopic, video.

Gopro do have the “Omni” that’s genlocked, but it’s a monosopic 360 rig. There are a few solutions out there for action camera sync, but that’s for another article.

What’s important is, My brother’s keeper, has a majority of scenes shot with a 180 degree rig – the easiest kind to have sync (it’s nothing more than a side-by-side stereoscopic pair of cameras with fish eye lenses) but it’s plain to see the cameras are unsynced.

Plain to see.. how? Whip out those anaglyph glasses again and take a look at the first image in this article. See the main character’s hand gripping the rifle? (the hand nearer the trigger) follow this hand a little lower diagonally and you’ll notice the rifle strap hurts the eye when viewed. This is only a still image, so look at the youtube video version above – it can be switched to anaglyph 3D via the settings at the bottom right. Do watch it at min. 2k resolution.

You’ll notice all shots and scenes that feature this “Johnny 4 rig” (not my name for it) show un-synced visuals that can cause nausea and eye-strain when viewed in a VR headset.

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The JAUNT Crater:

It’s always easy to tell projects that have been shot with the famous Jaunt Camera. While I believe this might be one of the prototype Jaunt rigs, I think even the newer Jaunts have that signature “Jaunt crater” which can be quite immersion breaking.

What’s the Jaunt crater? The image above – again, stripped off color to mark out the areas of stereo better – show it. Put on your red-cyan glasses and take a look. (click the image for a larger version). A huge section of the bottom of the scene looks like it’s been flattened by a wrecking ball. You’ll see it more clearly on the boy’s trousers on the left and the shrubbery on the right. What’s more disturbing is, that for a camera that’s so expensive – what it’s giving you is just a “Stereo Band” across the middle.

Take a look at how the trees flatten out just above the rope swing.

Note: this isn’t just Nadir, zenith monoscopic – this is a sizable amount of the audiences field of view going from full stereo depth to abrupt monoscopic.

In the quest for presence and immersion – how are cameras like the Nokia OZO and Jaunt being called state of the art?

This breaks immersion. There are certainly cameras/rigs offering better stereoscopic 360 coverage at a far lesser price. Yet some big name and high budget productions are being shot with cameras that break immersion. Has anyone seen the 50 Shades Darker (Masquerade ball) video shot on the Nokia Ozo? It’s a Masqurade ball where the audience will *want* to look around, and one of the main characters has her body go from full stereo to mono right through the middle of her torso.

The NYTVR video done on the Google Odyssey – Jump platform is the only big name/price system that gets it right. Take a look at the video above.

I even thought the nadir & zenith was handled well and I said so, here.

There’s one more artifact noticeable in the Jaunt shot scenes, in My Brother’s Keeper – Optical flow / stitch rubber-banding. This artefact manifests itself as a ‘pulling of the background pixels’ around areas of the boy who’s pushing the swing. It’s hard to see it from the still image above so take a look at the time stamp in the lower right corner (02:35) and see the video with red-cyan glasses or if possible, in a VR HMD.

You could do a lot worse with 10 minutes of your time, and VR creators, if they didn’t get the chance at Sundance, should certainly take a look.

…that’s what Tech Crunch had to say about My Brother’s Keeper and they couldn’t be nearer the truth. The film should be watched – especially by VR content creators. If these films are being shown to hundreds and thousands of audiences at film festivals… we should do them no harm by learning as quickly as possible what not to, and what to do… in Cinematic VR.