Special effects have always been about bridging the gap between fantasy and reality. Practical and CG effects can take you to Mars, or an alien hive, or inside a mind. But unlike this now older tech, advances in virtual reality technology are poised to be quantum leaps in how viewers get immersed in films. And all the big players in the entertainment industry are gearing up for it.
At Sundance this year, Lucasfilm unveiled its impressive ILMxLAB “Holo Cinema” demo, an approximation of which is in the above video. In it, the viewer (not you, the person who was actually there) is transported to Jakku to hang out with C-3PO and BB-8. The system works using glasses with a position tracked in space. 3D images of the story world are then projected onto the surfaces around the viewers depending on how the glasses are oriented — where the user is looking. The result, ironically, is something similar to the holodeck on Star Trek.
According to sources at Disney and Lucasfilm, Holo Cinema-type experiences will be released in conjunction with future Star Wars films, and it sounds like they’ll have directors and writers work on both films and their tangential VR experiences. And while no specific names have been mentioned, it’s not difficult to imagine the Star Wars franchise attracting immensely talented people.
In the pitch video for the ILMxLAB Holo Cinema (below, along with another clip from the Sundance demo), Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, says that “we are experiencing a renaissance with experiential storytelling… something that, in a way, George [Lucas] did with the first Star Wars. He recognized that storytelling and technological innovation go hand in hand…” And while of course Kennedy is right, as VR progresses with tech like the Oculus Rift a question arises: will we still call it storytelling? Those holodecks can make a pretty damn convincing reality and there is no set narrative; only fluid interaction between the user and the virtual world.
What do you think about the ILMxLAB Holo Cinema? Are you ready for the VR storytelling revolution, or do you like your films like your hypothetical flatland worlds, with only two dimensions? Let us know in the comments section below!
HT: Slash Film
Image: Slash Film