VR filmmaking is its own narrative-intensive beast. Providing a comfortable, stress-free environment on-set for your actors should always stand as a director's priority, especially if you're looking to obtain the best performances possible. When the project is VR-based, in which the actors' scene partner is a camera hoisted up by a robot capturing the user's POV, however, the task becomes somewhat more difficult.
In a new behind-the-scenes video released this week documenting the attention to detail involved in Door #1, the latest production produced by AOL’s RYOT and released on the Hulu VR app, we're shown just how precise and occasionally awkward the task can be.
Director (Virtually Mike and Nora)/actress (The Office) Nora Kirkpatrick helms Door #1, a new interactive comedy experience that places the user in attendance at their 10-year high school reunion. As the user wanders the halls and runs into situations that are either "super uncomfortable" or ones that they "always wanted to exist in," they come in contact with old friends still quite socially awkward, over-the-top, and advocates for peer pressure. Depending on the route you choose to take, illegal substances, hermits, and yes, Snoop Dogg make welcomed cameos.
Essentially, the cast had to act with the camera as their scene partner, receiving nothing back that resembles an emotional response. If dialogue is meant to be served back-and-forth like a tennis match, the cast was often tasked with serving to themselves.
Adjustments had to be made behind-the-camera as well. "We lose a lot of the advantages of filmmaking," Director of Photography Lucas Gath describes in the video, "being able to cut away to a close-up if something didn't work out, being able to hide certain lights behind the camera...here there's no hiding, there's no beam behind the camera, and so we need to get 10 times more creative." And if you're aware of the fact that the user will be able to control their perspective (i.e. choosing which direction they wish to focus their attention), you have to be extra precise in the production design and everything else placed within the ever-expanding frame.
The video is light-hearted in tone and yet provides an interesting look at the challenges filmmakers exploring these new interactive spaces may encounter. Rather than submit to them in defeat, production teams are working hard to turn these hindrances into new creative opportunities. It's worthwhile tracking their progress.
Have you downloaded the Hulu VR app? What on-set complications have you experienced directing an interactive project? Let us know in the comments below.