Opinion// How Will VR Influence Film?


There’s so much happening in the world of film and video right now. Given the strength of some recent campaigns, I soon found that there were some hot film trends right now. Producing compelling content that sticks front of mind is still a challenge given the complexity in which stories can be told, however, I think film has advanced considerably and plays a key role. Not only the tone of voice in certain films, but also the advances made in technology which have progressed the case for film in advertising considerably. In this blog, I’m going to focus on virtual reality.

So far, Virtual Reality has been pigeonholed as a technology that is driven by video games. And that is cool. Being able to play as whatever you want (futuristic solider, footballer, racing car driver – take your pick) is pretty darn impressive. But for VR to gain mainstream exposure – it needs to break into film.

With VR on the verge of major success at this time, it’s still very much in its infancy. It’s unknown how film will take off in VR. It’s a completely new ball game, and the field that filmmakers play on is a completely different one. Whilst before, the viewer would be led on a predetermined journey, VR gives the possibility of every single individual journey being different. There is a world for the viewer to explore in their own way. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Steven Spielberg isn’t convinced. At Cannes 2016, he argued that VR and the immersive environment it offers could distract from the actual story itself. It’s an interesting point – will our responsibility to create bespoke, original stories get harder with VR? For all we know, we could’ve prompted the right message at the right time, but VR offers something so different and immersive that it’s hard to know its effectiveness. How are you meant to know what to watch with so much around you? Where and when should your message be?

My point here is that whilst the whole look and presentation of VR will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced. Will the stories we tell also be different? Different tones of voice will be needed and perhaps we will need to provide clearer prompts for the viewer so they can see and hear the right thing at the right time.

It’s interesting looking at the early adaptations of VR in film. VR filmmaker, Paul Raphael talks of needing to figure out ‘how to trick the mind in a way to accept things that are clearly not true’. Before filmmakers were tasked with creating a world or a story that viewers would invest in and follow. Now, viewers can be the story.

More than ever, it shows how evolving is key. And how we evolved before.

Filmmaking is an art that has come a long way since its inception of a sequence of images. Technology drove it forward with booming sound and a full spectrum of colours which helped us to tell our story in our own way. We were able to drive our stories forward by making them personable and allowing the viewer to feel more.

I think it’s important for filmmakers to begin to recognise VR as a key film making component in years to come. There is no timeline for VR. At the moment, every piece of film has a beginning and an end of sorts. With VR, the journey is always there to reimmersed in. Becoming familiar with the technology will put filmmakers in good stead for when the technology is slightly more mature. There should be time dedicated, thinking about how even though the challenge is greater, how can positive results be achieved?

Whether VR will prove to be a long-standing extension of film, or it’s own separate entity – it will be here for good.


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