The merging of real and projected worlds will produce a seamless experience – a complete illusion of being part of a ﬁlm. “The Movie Theatre of the Future Will Be in Your Mind” Andrei Severny
Immersion Rainforest is our final installation piece, a virtual forest inside a physical one made possible by 360 video technology. Virtual Reality is for taking visitors to another world, and this world we explored was a future of cinema. It is a self-controlled, entirely personal experience, a barrier film has never been able to cross before. The responder can control what they see and where and, in a sense, the viewer can create the narrative and story themselves. The limitations once used to define a story, be it framing, zoom, panning, are all removed by 360 video, and there are limitations no more. They are immersed in the technology to the fullest sense of the word, to be a part of the film rather than just a spectator. This was our rationale, we wanted to transport our audience into this future world through our work, and through the technology of VR.
Our Immersion Forest begins in a dark room filled with a curtain of rope, that shrouds the entire room as rain, or trees, or wind, any way the viewer interprets it. We sought to represent a dense and dark rainforest at night, a stormy night with lightning and sharp sounds of thunder and alike. The respondent is led to the VR goggle at the centre of the forest, and are taken deeper into the forest, that is now daylight, and serene. In stark contrast to the chaos in the physical forest, and the calmness of the virtual one, acted as polar opposites. In one you can experience the freedom to move around with limitations, to compliment the limits one finds in the virtual forest.
Over the course of the last few weeks, our group has research similar immersive works and installations involving Virtual Reality. The two most prominent in our influences being Rain Room (2012) and Don’t Follow the Wind (2016). Cinema is only a century old, and though it may seem quite solidly defined that does not mean it in unchangeable.
Theoretically, the whole purpose of a film is to transport you into another world, and to tell a story. 360 video with Virtual Reality just takes that theory one step further, and makes it that more immersive, like these artworks.
Our original concept for future of cinema, had nothing to do with 360 videos or VR, as we had no access to the technology and none of us had experience with that kind of shooting, thus we decided to rule out exploring it. We instead focused our attentions to how the cinema format is shifting away from the traditional medium, from the theatre to at home, online and streaming through mobile phones; and explore it through an artistic representation. We often discussed how today’s expansive access to technology led to the ability for anyone to point and shoot and create a film, so we decided to explore shooting with multiple and differing devices currently on the table, like GoPro’s and smartphones.
We generated some initial trial footage of this idea, and the feedback generated in response by our peers led us to rethinking our original concept. We revisited Virtual Reality and 360-shooting, as it has been prominently mentioned as one of the likely forerunners heading into future cinema. Our group reconvened and began engaging with creating our own 360 degree footage.
This led, unfortunately, to a moment of stalling in getting ideas off of the ground. With the technology now available, we struggled to understand what we could actually explain with it in relation to Future of Cinema. We finally settled on represented the emerging realisation that the future of cinema will likely see the removal of the ‘collective audience’ that sits in a room together and watches a film together. these headsets required cutting off the connection to others around you, and generate a completely unique experience. Not one person will view the 360 footage in exactly the same way, some will look up more than others and other will spin around and look for the edge of the image.
Delegating certain elements of the installation also improved our efficiency and progression once we decided how we wanted to head forward. There were times with certain shot we were left with at the end of shooting, that we weren’t entirely satisfied with, and this could be due to the fact we were still learning how to use this technology. 360 degrees of shooting does not leave any place in the shot for you to hide and wait out the length of the footage, and standing out of shot proved harder than it seemed. For when you cannot see the camera, sometimes it can still see you due to its fisheye lenses.
Our final manifestation of Immersion Forest came together as we had envisioned as a group, and one that achieved the sensory engagement we desired. On a technical level, I was satisfied with the set up of the room and arrangement of speakers, the fan, and the aesthetic of the rope. In retrospect, I would have preferred to have longer footage than what we were left with by the end- as we could not use the majority of our footage from Minnamurra.
I feel the length of the footage was our weakest link, but we managed to find a way to work around the limitation. I was satisfied with the symbiosis of the virtual and real landscapes we created and how they combined together for the overall experience.
Where we could have improved, was working to incorporate a narrative into the 360 footage, were we struggled creatively. It was challenging to approach it as a creative level rather than practical, and my group members also struggled to think of a story. It can be seen as a crucial element of film, however we kept wondering as we struggled to integrate a narrative whether we needed one to draw back the connection to cinema. The new medium of 360 footage, and the freedom to explore it as your own will, itself could be the narrative, where you make your own exploration of the world inside. An interactive narrative only achievable through first person engagement (Debjani 2014).
I started the subject with a firm foot planted in the traditional practices of media and art, and I still have a strong affirmation for them. It was necessary to step out of what I thought was my comfort zone and preferred way of engaging with media arts, and heading in the direction of what the future of media arts would be. Heading forward, I’d perhaps like to explore a way of merging my experiences with both perspectives, like Virtual reality with rotoscoping. An interesting area we chose not to explore in our Immersion Forest, was the presence of people. It did not fit within the context of our idea, but including human presence in VR and 360 videos would have huge ramifications on the immersion element. When you make eye contact with the characters within a 360 film, its implications for storytelling are exponential in creating the interactive narrative (Passell 2016).
Debjani R (2014) ‘Cinema in the Age of Digital Revolution'<http://www.ijims.com/uploads/8173db12811b1899bcf52014418.pdf>
Passell S (2016) ‘My Experience With Oculus Rift & The Future Of Cinematic Storytelling'<http://www.movie-moron.com/?p=38555>