Toronto Canada filmmaker Elli Raynai began exploring last year how he could harness the immersive power of VR-simulated environments for cinematic storytelling all while staying on a smaller budget. In a serendipitous encounter at a Toronto VR meet-up, he met his filmmaking partner and programmer, Alexander Kondratskiy, where the two joined forces to hack together a VR capture rig solution and work on a new film project.
This now completed short film, titled I Am You, runs 10 minutes and debuted this month at Toronto’s Kaleidoscope interactive art crawl.
To create a truly stereoscopic 3D effect, Raynai and Kondratskiy calculated an ideal distance between average users’ eyes and attached two GoPros to a bicycle helmet to mimic normal human sight. The two actors in the short film alternated wearing the helmet to achieve a first-person perspective.
Raynai explains that the first half of the short film was shot with a regular DSLR and built a 3D cinema rendering from scratch as a way for the viewer to get a “comfortable introduction to the platform.” For the second half of the short film, the viewer gets pulled into the body of the actor and they see the remaining part of the film from the actor’s perspective. Raynai elaborates that this part is 3D as they “chose a different approach for immersion and directing the viewer’s attention.”
One of the challenges of 3D cinema capture without head tracking for a viewer is that it can cause nausea and discomfort when the user experiences something that is disconnected from where their head is pointed.
Raynai and Kondratskiy had an interesting solution, which was one of the first questions I asked when seeing an Oculus Rift attached to the back of the head of the actor wearing the 3D rig. The solution was that the content captured needed additional positional data. Although the viewer was still limited to a 120-degree field of vision, the scene captured with stereoscopic 3D GoPros, was also accompanied with an Oculus Rift to capturing head tracking data. The filmmakers created a digital 360-degree map using the head tracking data and placed the image where it should be according to what the actor experienced. The final viewer of the short film would just need to follow the placement of the scene in this 360-degree environment and track their attention in a more comfortable manner.
When asked about the 3rd GoPro on the rig in the center of the actor’s face, Raynai explained, “We put a 3rd GoPro on the rig so we could monitor the image and see where the actor was looking as we couldn’t be in the room with them during filming.”
Now that their film is complete, Raynai and Kondratskiy plan to host a wider premiere in June at Toronto’s Videofag cinema and performance lab. They also hope to get the film in front of programmers at Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest and other interactive festivals.
Cheers to a cool experiment and best of luck to Raynai and Kondratskiy!
Images Courtesy of Elli Raynai