Does VR fit into film’s future?

It seems like the film industry are placing bets on their future and investing in virtual reality technology. First, in December, “the Fox film studio signed with Montreal-based Felix and Paul Studio to create VR films and shows based on Fox’s movies and its other characters”, then there’s “The Virtual Reality Company, created by Hollywood players such as “Maleficent” director Robert Stromberg and producer Gary Primus, is moving into the Chinese market, where local cafés and kiosks are popping up to offer virtual reality entertainment”. The market of virtual reality is appealing to film makers you want to innovate and be first in this new medium.

Even Disney is investing in Virtual Reality. They invested in Jaunt, which is a virtual reality company brought five virtual reality movies to the Sundance Film Festival.  The industry aggressively wants VR to become more mainstream and accessible so that they can use it as an option to make more money in ticket sales. But the real question, is will they succeed? As discussed in the last few posts, we know that Hollywood fails when it comes to technology, and with VR being too expensive and too niche currently, will this be another spectacular let down? Unlike 3D, you cannot make a VR film work both ways. Like the film Avatar, a film that was meant to be seen in 3D and in theaters, a viewing experience on your home TV screen feels anticlimax. VR films will be niche just like VR itself. The industry clearly is excited about the possibilites of VR but what they forget is that VR is a baby just learning to walk and you cannot expect it to run. And currently, virtual reality technology is “being sold…is novelty—the fact that you’re watching something supposedly more realistic than anything before—and not the experience itself. But realism shouldn’t be the goal; a compelling immersive environment, whether it’s reality- or fantasy-based, should be”.

One person who does seem to have a clear goal of what virtual reality technology can accomplish right now is Jon Favreau. He directed a live action version of the Jungle Book last year and this year, is working on doing the same with The Lion King. This time though, he is using virtual reality technology. He spoke recently that “they used some VR technology to create virtual environments, and then go on location scouting expeditions within these virtual locations, and that he could move assets around these virtual locations in real time with VR technology”. This use of innovation is the medium should make for a worthwhile (and beautiful) viewing experience. Favreau understands this young technology, in an interview about his HTC Vive VR movie Gnomes and Goblins he spoke on virtual reality technology and where it currently is – “It’s a bit of a novelty; it’s still overwhelming. People don’t really understand it, but they react very strongly to it. So we’re really at the very early part of the learning curve. It’s such a unique technology—you can’t just cut and paste other techniques onto it. You can’t just treat it like a film that surrounds you. That approach doesn’t take full advantage of what VR has to offer”. When Hollywood dives into VR they should have him on speed dial.

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