Every fancied seeing yourself on the silver screen? Think you’re the movie star that the world didn’t know they needed?
No? Me neither. But the notion that one day any Joe Bloggs could feature centre stage in a film is an intriguing one.
So, what would it take for virtual movies to become a reality?
From a headset perspective, the most popular - or well-known - is the Oculus Rift. Transcending its tech origins, it even features in the lyrics of Father John Misty’s 2017 release, Total Entertainment Forever. Commenting on the controversial opening line (“Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift”) in an interview with Exclaim!, Misty – real name Josh Tillman – stated:
The fact of the matter is, I don't want that to happen to Taylor Swift. That is the worst thing I can think of; that is so horrible. But again, this plays into progress, where like, the internet was supposed to be this new democracy, a utopia of information where everyone had a voice and we were all interconnected, and we would experience true democracy — and it turned into pornography, followed only by outrage. The tools represent some kind of technological advancement, but if we can't act like more than angry ecstasy freaks with the most advanced technology in the world, then how much have we really progressed?
He’s got a point.
Immersive experiences rely on high-quality visuals, but the more advanced and sophisticated the technology, the blurrier the lines between fact and fiction become. Not everyone will be interested in enjoying Toy Story 4 from Forky’s perspective, or singing along to “Let It Go” with Elsa as she builds her ice palace in Frozen. The outputs of VR content creators will undoubtedly diversify to meet demand, and the sad reality is they will descend to the same dark depths as the internet, given time.
But the cons aren’t limited to concerns around morality.
Within (www.with.in) was founded in 2014 with an aim of expanding the potential of immersive storytelling via premium augmented reality and virtual reality experiences across web, mobile, console and headsets.
Back to the Future sadly does not feature in their back catalogue, but an eclectic mix of animated shorts, documentaries, horror films and music videos do, including Crow: The Legend - the official selection of Cannes Le Marché du Film and the Venice International Film Festival in 2019. Featuring global names John Legend, Oprah Winfrey, Constance Wu and Diego Luna, this interactive animated movie about a colourful bird’s quest to save his friends provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of film.
In much the same vein as 360 degree images and videos, viewers are free to manually “explore” their surroundings from a first-person perspective merely by dragging their fingertips - whether that be in the depths of a leafy forest or floating in outer space surrounded by stars and asteroids. Oh, and a talking Sun… Obviously.
The execution is seriously impressive. At least, for now.
You can’t help wonder how this technology will advance in years to come. With time, Crow: The Legend may become the When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth of its day. Groundbreaking at the time, but scoffed at when the next generation’s Spielberg unleashes their Jurassic Park, thereby raising the bar and transforming the genre forever.
With reduced picture quality and viewers being closer to the action, users can often see those pesky pixel lines. As things stands, there is nothing on the market that can combat this issue, meaning your pricey headset can’t come close to replicating your 4K TV.
The same applies to sound quality. How can your headphones hope to replicate the Dolby Atmos surround sound experience on offer at many cinemas? The short answer – they can’t.
What VR films do offer, however, is the novelty factor. It’s something new and different – an exciting way to interact with media. Will this outweigh the enjoyment of social cinema outings in the future? Perhaps the new “in thing” will be enjoying VR movies together, waving to one another as you vanquish vampires, walk on the moon or swim with sharks. Who knows?
But one thing is for sure, I’ll be first in line to hop inside the DeLorean with Einy. And you might not see me for some time…