VR Movies Could Be Huge In 2015

Oculus Rift to Drive New Genre

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

There’s a revolution going on, and it’s going to be televised right into your brain. That’s the promise of devices like the Facebook‘s Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR, and a host of other virtual reality devices, such as Google Cardboard, which allows a smartphone to become a VR headset. These are all driving the next big thing in entertainment… virtually reality entertainment. And 2015 promises to be the year that VR movies blow up on the scene, with dozens of movies premiering at top film festivals like Sundance.

“I’ve never really seen anything like this where a new technology is so muscularly poised to hit the market. This is the year that we’re really going to get wired into this hardware in a major way. It really has the potential to shift the [filmmaking] terrain quite a bit in a very significant and deep way.” –  Shari Frilot, Sundance Senior Programmer and New Frontier Program Curator

VR Kaiju Fury! (Image credit: CNN/Wired)

Dedicated to innovative filmmaking, Sundance’s New Frontier program will highlight up to nine virtual reality films in 2015, along with a VR-based documentary. The films range from Kaiju Fury!, a Godzilla-like adventure in a first person perspective, to a documentary chronicling the 1979 Iranian revolution.

All these offer a first person point of view, and promise to blow up the festival. But it’s not the first time that Sundance has showcased this virtual reality technology. Dating back to 2012, the Utah film festival has featured Oculus Rift shorts and feature films as part of the New Frontier Program, the first being a short film based on the video game EVE: Valkyrie on the Rift.

The technology has ramped up to a stage where it’ll be wholly embraced by filmmakers.

Oculus has been marketed for its VR benefits to gaming and other industries, like design and medicine. But its cinematic potential is just starting to be unlocked. This past fall, Warner Brothers partnered with Oculus to offer the Interstellar Oculus Experience, where fans waited in line for several hours to get a five minute experience of free floating inside the space ship Endurance.

HBO used Oculus to provide Game of Thrones fans with a first person point of view at South by Southwest, and at Comic-Con last summer, Legendary Pictures put fans inside Pacific Rim‘s fighting Jaeger for a taste of battle. But all these were limited experiences of less than five minutes, which Oculus programmers says is the limit of the technology at this point.

The flying experience from Birdly will feature a simulator powered by Oculus Rift.
Image Credit: CNN/Wired

But 2015 promises to be the year that VR hits the market in a major way, and Sundance is set to be the vanguard of this new virtual revolution. Here’s a breakdown of the VR films that will be showcased in Park City, UT this January:

  • 1979 Revolution Game: Designed to engage players with an immersive “on the ground” experience of the Iranian Revolution, the documentary game integrates an emotionally impactful narrative with interactive moral choices and intuitive touchscreen gameplay, while remaining true to history.

  • Assent: This immersive documentary uses virtual reality technology to put the user in the footsteps an army officer stationed in the north of Chile, on the day when the Caravan of Death came to his regiment.

  • Birdly: A simulation of being a bird from a first-person perspective.

  • Dérive: Explores 3-D reconstructions of urban and natural spaces that are transformed, according to live environmental data of the audience, including meteorological and astronomical phenomena.

  • Evolution of Verse: Chris Milk teams up with Digital Domain and virtual reality production company VRSE.works for a photo-realistic CGI-rendered 3-D virtual reality journey from beginning to new beginning.

  • Kaiju Fury!: Giant monsters! What more is there to say? OK, maybe a little more. Audiences will be at ground zero—all in 360-degree, stereoscopic 3-D attack of giant frickin’ monsters as they destroy a city!

  • Paradise: Paradise as seen through the eyes of the beholder.

  • Perspective; Chapter I: The Party:  A college party from the perspective of a couple who meet, drink, and misinterpret one another. Fans will be able to choose which character they want to experience.

  • Possibilia: The audience will find themselves in the mdidle of an argument between two lovers and experience the end of their relationship from their points of view with possible outcomes.

  • Project Syria: Part of an attempt at virtual journalism, but hard hitting documentary will focus on the plight of Syrian children who have been targeted by rebels, leaving the audience as an eye witness as the intense tragedy unfolds.

  • The VR works of Felix & Paul: This is about as close to a Disneyesque circle theater experience, as Felix & Paul take viewers from the Mongolian plains with yak herders to an encounter with the afterlife.

  • Way to Go: It is a walk in the woods with a mixture of hand-made animation, 360-degree video capture, music, dreaming, and code.

  • Zero Point: Zero Point, a 3-D and 360-degree documentary showcases combat training simulations at the Department of Defense to indie game development and shows the immersive potential of VR technology.

Will we see feature length films anytime soon? Will future chapters of the Star Wars Saga give viewers the first person perspective of a light saber or X-Wing fighter battle? Well, the technology isn’t ready for that just yet. Then again, it wasn’t all that long ago that IMAX was only for short, experimental films of about 10 minutes in length, and now we have IMAX editions of every blockbuster. So it’ll be interesting to see how this technology matures. But you don’t have to go to Park City, Utah to see VR on your own, you can make or buy a Google Cardboard housing and slip your mobile phone into it for a VR experience at home.

Or could it be the next 3D?

Hat Tip: CNN/Wired

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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