Virtual reality doesn’t have the attention coercion means of film. It’s very difficult to say where the spectator will look in a 360° vision and, furthermore, if he will look in the direction we would like him to look. Because we don’t want to let virtual reality become a kind of medium geared uniquely to a perceptive shoot. We need tools that can guide the user’s perception without threatening the immersion of the plot. The Virtual Close Up project leads by Gengiskhan aims to create this tools and especially -as you can guess- the close-up, this guide to the spectator's gaze. Together with our providers Katacklack (Spain), the stereograph Sergio Ochoa (UK) and the stage director Laurent Bazin. We had the opportunity to experiment and exchange about this new tool.
With the help of two actors from Gengiskhan and Laurent Bazin's Cie Mesden we tried during a three days workshop plenty of different configurations with a camera prototype. Following each of these tries we succeed to obtain very good results with an actor standing 60cm from afar the camera. The prototype proved itself innovating for us in terms of spatial narration.
As Virtual reality is very young and is still quite demanding on a lot of technical experimentations, a lot of questions are usually coming to us in this virtual close up project. How the experience of a fixed-focus reality will impact the brain, which will be unable to focus on it’s own with the glasses on? Will it create an intense sensation of frustration or sickness, as it happens with the moving VR experiences ? Moreover, as we are losing the aura and the presence of the protagonists in 3D, we have to translate emotions into something else. Colors, contrast. By using the experience of each and everyone, we can succeed in creating a new way of telling stories. Some of us are coming from theater and have a deep sense of space and live play, some of us are coming from film and are experts in this media language. The help of the stage director Laurent Bazin is a great help to us and his knowledge about space and narration provides us an invaluable experience as we don't want to look at it from a unique technical point of view.
Along with him we tried the performances of the camera and it is indisputable that his presence challenged them. Sufficient or insufficient, as in every experiment, we spend a lot of time thinking and trying to others solutions that can bring us closer to the optical devices and to emphasize what was the procured feeling of it. To say it briefly, we went to the limits of this prototypical device in terms of sensation and emotion.
And in between of all the amusing and frustrating moments, we succeed in obtaining some pretty positive results for the rest of our projects; we could reduce the distance between the camera a character like never before. Which means a great improvement for the future of immersive stories. It is indeed very difficult to manage distances in VR. Sometimes something very close seems way too far that they really are. And it disturbs a lot our perception as a spectator. Moreover, it permits to see more emotions than before and the actor has not anymore to accentuates or over-exaggerate his expressions in front of the cameras. It is a very important issue both for scenarists and director who wants to create deep and believable immersive stories.
These three days lefts us a feeling of happiness and relief. As it left us with a lot of different dispositions approached by an emotional and not only technical point of view. We will continue to experiment on this prototype in order to establish a new filming methodology for VR in the next few months. Because we haven't entirely reach our goals in terms of resultant feeling, but also because these tests brought new possible improvements like reducing the distance between the actor and the camera up to 25cm. These tries around the close-up in virtual reality teaches us a lot about what is possible or not in terms of 360° perception and the sensations felt by the mind.