As the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset grows in popularity ahead of its late 2014/early 2015 consumer release, it's already doing some pretty amazing things in beta. Though it's been designed primarily for 3D gaming VR, it can also do things like controlling aerial camera drones. Clearly in the near future there are going to be some passive film viewing applications for the Oculus -- Joe even posed the question here on No Film School earlier this year "will we watch movies like this in the future?" Well, if the company Jaunt VR has anything to say about it, the answer is YES. Jaunt has developed a unique 360 camera system specifically designed to capture footage for use with the Oculus Rift, and they are now in post-production on their own World War II short film The Mission by production company New Deal Studios.
Steadicam Operator A.J. Raitano with the Jaunt VR
The Jaunt VR is essentially a ring of cameras complimented by a binaural mic, set atop a base that can be attached to a mount. Jaunt is using a proprietary stitching algorithm to achieve the 3D video capture. The bad news is that it takes up to 15 seconds per one second of raw footage to process -- totally understandable given the amount of data moving through the pipes, but it's definitely a pretty severe lag compared to the live SD, CF, or SDD playback we "2D" filmmakers enjoy every day.
"Everything is different because everything is in the shot," Owen Remeika, a rep for Jaunt told Gizmodo on a recent overcast Sunday amid the cow pastures of Petaluma, California.
"Jaunt uses multiple lenses and sensors on their prototype camera to create immersive, stereographic, 360 degree VR video ("cinematic VR")," Jens Christensen, Jaunt VR CEO, told Gizmodo. "Unlike traditional 3D, there are no stereo pair cameras on the Jaunt camera. Instead, Jaunt's 3D is computed algorithmically."
You may be wondering how the director Matthew Gratzner monitored what was being captured on set, as the entire set has to be very clean of all crew and gear. According to this Reddit thread from Redditor clamch0wda (which appears to be commented on by several members of the crew), there is a single GoPro he could monitor with at the base of the camera. The pictures of Steadicam Operator A.J. Raitano back this up. I can only imagine the single wide front angle, combined with the exaggerated video lag time from the camera to process the footage on set, is excruciating for those at the video village who literally have to hide from set.
But hey -- maybe once you clear set, at least you know you can focus your attention on performance and not camera angling as much:
"What's exciting about it, I feel like we're in 1927 when sound was first being introduced," The Mission's director Matthew Gratzner told Gizmodo, "but what you have to realize is that you don't really have the ability to do coverage. In other words, you're looking 360 degrees so every time you're shooting something you have to be aware of someone or something you could see in the background [that shouldn't be there]. There is no 'behind the camera'."
In practice, I believe this speaks to the importance of a remarkably smooth DP/Steadicam Operator partnership. The director can always cut, but in a film like The Mission, every single take is a follow or lead, and a long take for that matter. I mean, can you imagine how much more difficult something like the famous True Detective's 6 minute long take would be with no hiding behind the camera? And for the immersive 3D experience, I can't imagine you'd want to be cutting forward in time too much. (Another fun aside: I find myself wanting to write with terms like "cutting around" -- but there really isn't any cutting "around", is there?)
Also of note, the Jaunt is on its second version -- V1 (pictured above) seems to resemble a bit of a camera pin cushion. Pretty amazing they've moved from that to a 360 ring of cams and two atop.
For more information about The Mission, be sure to check out New Deal Studios' The Mission VR Twitter feed.
So what do you think about the future vision here? We talk a lot about standard 2D camera tech, but as more Oculus Rift-friendly cameras such as the Jaunt VR are released and are refined, do you think a new type of 3D immersive filmmaking will become prevalent? Even overtaking 2D film? Or are we creating a new kind of immersive film altogether? Calling back to the post from earlier this year again -- will we be watching AND making films like this in the (near) future?
Congrats to New Deal Studios and Jaunt VR. Here's to hoping The Mission makes for an outstanding narrative experience in the Rift.
[Photos 1 & 2 by Scott Broock, VP of Content, Jaunt VR]
[Photo 4 by Redditor clamch0dwa]