Filmmakers tap into VR

Pieces right now last around 10 minutes, but filmmakers are already exploring options for longer VR stories.

May 08, 2017

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Pieces right now last around 10 minutes, but filmmakers are already exploring options for longer VR stories.

"Life of Us" is a seven-minute interactive piece about evolution produced by VR company Within. (Source: Within/YouTube)

Virtual reality is now getting serious attention from big names in entertainment. This is no doubt welcome news for VR companies, which have been betting big on the commercial side of the business recently, although producers and directors are still unsure whether consumers prefer using this technology at home or in a theater.

The Tribeca Film Festival has multiple VR projects this year with connections to the likes of "director Kathryn Bigelow, musicians John Legend and Pharrell Williams, producer Megan Ellison and others," the Wall Street Journal reports. These projects tend to last around 10 minutes so as to not wear out the audience. Filmmakers are still unsure how long audiences are willing to put up with wearing a VR headset for the sake of watching a story.

This medium produces new ways to experience stories, however, making them unlike anything that's come before. Though it can be used to create interactive experiences, stories being told through VR are seen as something different from video games. It is also possible that audiences do not want to interact much with their surroundings in this setting, preferring to explore as a passive observer.

Another possible aspect of future VR storytelling is the social aspect. Filmmaker Chris Milk told the WSJ, "Bar none, VR is going to be the most connected artistic medium for storytelling that we’ve ever experienced." Milk said his seven-minute piece "Life of Us" led to audience members bonding with each other in the VR environment when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

It's early days still, but this news suggests that companies like Acer and Disney have been smart to invest in the commercial use of VR. It is possible that audiences will eventually appreciate aspects of VR entertainment, different both in theaters and at home, the way many experience movies today. Theaters have the benefit of offering high-tech and social experiences that people might not be able to get in the comfort of their own homes.

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