SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime makes its debut at Sundance.
When it comes to exploring space, we are constantly in search for what else exists in the Universe. As we reach for the stars, we’re able to make new discoveries that help us better understand the cosmos and learn more about our origin as humans. But one discovery, black holes, have continued to be a mystery.
Now thanks to one explorer of science and art, you can now experience what it may be like to fly through a black hole in VR.
Making its debut at Sundance Film Festival this week, SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime is the first installment in a three-part VR series created by Eliza McNitt, transporting viewers into the deepest reaches of the Universe. The VR experience brings to life interactive visions of future worlds and explores our unity with the cosmos.
This is McNitt’s debut project at the Sundance Film Festival. An explorer of the cosmic collision between science and art, director and producer McNitt worked alongside scientists, astronauts, and astrophysicists to help tell this story of human connection to the cosmos.
Her first VR experience, Fistful of Stars, which premiered last year at SXSW, was a journey following the birth, life, and death of a star.
McNitt was captivated by the idea of what happens after a star dies and the types of worlds which are born. However, unlike her previous experience where there was an abundance of reference images to pull from, the inside of a black hole is a mystery. So instead, McNitt turned to science to understand what would happen when a star was engulfed by a black hole. McNitt describes this phenomenon similar to a near-death experience as the piece immerses the viewer in an intense emotion of wonder and fear.
“I was inspired by the idea that Space is silent, but in fact it is full of sound, and together it makes music. I was captivated by the thought that music is written into the fabric of space-time, and wanted to create an experience that brought that idea to life.”
In SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime, you are drawn closer and closer to a black hole which begins to bend light and gravity as you near the event horizon. Even though I knew what I was getting into, realizing the severity of what was happening left me with an overwhelming sensation as I neared the edge. Once you fall in, you are are torn apart and broken down into strands of light through a process called “spaghettification” as you near the gravitational singularity.
Later, you actually embody a black hole and are able to pull nearby stars and even another black hole towards you. While looking through the peripherals of the headset view, you can see other objects warping and bending, emphasizing the gravitational wave caused by the most violent event in our universe, creating a ripple in the fabric of space-time.
An important aspect of this experience is the music, which creates a beautiful separation between the vast emptiness of space and the violent collision of two black holes. The score was composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein from S U R V I V E, best known for the score of Stranger Things. However, there’s more to this A-list crew.
The experience is narrated by Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, The Tree of Life), whose voice McNitt calls the sound of the Cosmos. In this piece she’s not just your narrator or your guide, but she is the voice of human perception, the voice of human knowledge. Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel (Protozoa Pictures) were also executive producers on the project, both being deeply passionate about science as storytelling.
The remaining chapters of SPHERES will be released throughout 2018, and McNitt later hopes to make a character-driven narrative about an astronaut to explore the human connection to the Cosmos through the eyes of a human being.
Most recently it was announced that a new VR financing and distribution venture, CityLights, has acquired SPHERES for $1.4M. This acquisition is the largest deal for a virtual reality film brokered during the Sundance Film Festival, marking new territory for the expanding medium.
“Opening up our ears will take us to worlds beyond the ones we can see.”