D R A F T

When dSky entered 2015, we were hard at work on an unofficial Star Wars inspired project, fueled by the amazing “game” outlined in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, where the protagonist is inserted into various movies in the first person, as the protagonist,  and asked to perform the role. Their performance is scored based on accuracy, timing, delivery and so forth. After testing with hundreds of humans, our conclusions from that were many, which we’ll share in another post. What we arrived at was the conviction that movies need VR trailers.

A little background:

In 1996 Hollywood was asking
“Do we need a website for our movie release?”

10 years later, there wasn’t a single blockbuster movie launch without a strong web presence. It became an accepted fact that a website was a key component of the digital marketing mix.

In 2016 studios are effectively asking the same question again:

“Do we need a VR Trailer for our movie?”

We’ve tracked the movies that have made the courageous leap in 2015, here’s the catalog. The good news is that Hollywood is starting to grasp the need; the bad news is… well, keep reading:

 

VR-movie-trailers-2015

 

FILM PLATFORM DURATION
Avengers :
Tony Starks Lab
GearVR, game engine ~3m
Avengers :
Age of Ultron
GearVR, cinematic ~2m
Pacific Rim GearVR, cinematic, public ~2m IMHO, the best of the batch.
fast and furious.
The Hobbit :
Desolation of Smaug
DK2, private ?? WETA Digital private project
Wild cinematic, Sundance premiere, now public on GearVR ~3m Fox; first to have actual talent in VR : Reese Witherspoon & Laura Dern star
Divergence GearVR, public ~4m
How to Train your Dragon 2 touring, game engine, custom hardware ~5m Dreamworks VR; Brad Hermann; awesome; fly on the back of a dragon
Jurassic World GearVR, public  ~4m what do we get for a 1.2GB download on a phone?
Interstellar red carpet, touring Framestore
The Martian Oculus launch title; free cinematic teaser in Milk on GearVR ~3m teaser The VR Company;
paid app launches Spring 2016 @ ~15-20m
The Walk touring; Sony PSVR physical rope prop: actually walk the tightrope in VR; Sony
Hunger Games DK2, public share  LionsGate
Mission Impossible touring elaborate physical plane prop with hanging rig; Paramount
Star Wars :
The Force Awakens
cardboard available via exclusive app; Google / Disney / ILM Xlabs

 

Clearly, these experiences are being dictated by the Hollywood side of the triangle. (the other two components being the technologists of Silicon Valley and the videogame creators). That is to say, they focus very strongly on linear storytelling, and even framing. While the players can look away from the camera, there is a strong chance that a key plot point will be missed.

NOTE: A strong exception to this might be Wild : The VR Experience by Fox. Its hard to tell without many many viewings, but it does appear that there are seamless branches in that cinematic narrative based on the gaze and actions of the viewer.

While many of us in the development community have created or are creating engines to handle narrative branching based on user actions, it appears that the storytellers have yet to embrace this sort of “interaction”, preferring to port linear stories into 360 3D worlds. So this is effectively quadrupling production budgets, in terms of $$$ per second, without giving the viewer much more than a widescreen 3d experience.

screenshots from a few prominent VR Trailers:

insurgent-VR-kate-winslet

Kate Winslet makes a cameo in the VR trailer for Insurgent

 

HTTYD-VR-DragonNYCC2
The VR for Dreamworks ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ was a touring production with elaborate staging : players sat atop a Viking ship, had a custom wood and leather controller, and felt the wind in their hair from speed-controlled fans.

 

perhaps the most elaborate staging to date for a mainstream VR experience; rigged to the side of an aeroplane to play Tom Cruise in Mission : Impossible
perhaps the most elaborate staging to date for a mainstream VR experience; rigged to the side of an aeroplane to play Tom Cruise in Mission : Impossible VR

 

INT_image_02
The VR trailer for Interstellar was another touring production that maintained complete control of the physical environment for audiences at select theatres

 

Wild : The VR experience, was the first to involve actual star talent from the film, in an independent shoot explicitly for VR
Wild : The VR experience, was the first to involve actual star talent from the film, in an independent shoot explicitly for VR

 

The upside here is that the studios are investing, and experimenting, in this new medium… which is exactly what should happen. Hopefully these experiments will start to involve more and more members of the videogame and mobile design communities, who have a knack for fusing flexible narrative with first person interaction.

 

What do you think?

How would you like to interact with your favorite characters, props and sets in VR? 

Comment here:

 

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