Virtual reality technologies are finally finding their footing after years of rapid progress. Headset technologies started simple and prohibitively expensive, but thanks to increasing average computer speeds and decreasing display costs, they’re increasingly good investments. Promising to revolutionise the entertainment market, VR will open new doors, but their suitability for the film remains in question.
The Highest Potential for VR
VR being more interactive is a cornerstone of what makes the technology interesting, but this interactivity isn’t equally suited to all industries. For a demonstration of where it could work well, consider interactive markets like those of online casinos. Playing free bingo games online today, like Speed Trap and Cash Cubes, requires little processing power, making them great fits for standalone VR headsets. They can also be translated equally well over mobile and desktops, setting a precedent that could soon extend into virtual space. Finally, as interactive experiences, they’re perfect for the first-person viewing of VR, making the potential combination one of rare quality. Films, however, don’t share all of these qualities.
What Could Film in VR Mean?
The most basic way of involving film in VR could mean viewing in a virtual environment that fakes a movie theatre experience. This could be fun and is a great fit for viewing with friends, but it only scratches the surface of what the technology could do. Bingo could let players be within the action, and that’s a target where movie VR could set its sights. Being within an actual film is also where the issues start to appear.
Processing requirements are the first big hurdle here, which can’t be overcome yet. Unlike bingo, which can offer a virtual environment created in the abstract, a film with real actors needs to be 100% realistic. If you’re watching from one spot, this is easier to manage, since you’re essentially looking at a projection. Creating a fully explorable space means replacing humans with perfect 3D models, however, which is extremely complicated and not feasible in real time. It took the equivalent of 3,000 virtual CPUs in a cloud centre and an hour to render a single frame in Avatar 2, and we don’t have that power or time.
Films are made to appear logical and continuous but extended out into real physical space, their logic can break down. Filmmaking requires tricks and movement behind the scenes to capture the best possible angles and lighting, and in virtual reality, that idea can reveal logical inconsistencies. In bingo, the game is the focus, where getting your own angle is a big part of the experience. Do that in film, and the effect can be completely ruined.
Virtual reality in films is an interesting idea, but it does not lend itself well to a passive medium. Unlike interactive systems like bingo, films aren’t meant to be enjoyed in one clear way. From one position, it can be possible to derive a spectrum of emotions and conclusions, but viewing is all accomplished from the same point. Though non-traditional films may expand on this idea, regular viewing cinema for now is locked into the traditional, no matter how much we’d like VR to become part of the experience.