After a pretty daunting couple of months where I was flirting with the idea of shooting something in VR I finally just jumped in with both feet and made a short.
The result is something I am incredibly proud of. Brooks Forester, Jeremy Mitchell and I went up to the desert of palmdale on a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing more than a script, a Samsung Gear 360 camera and some RAM mounts, and made "No Good Deed...". It was an incredible learning experience that wasn't without its challenges. I had to hide from view, usually in the bed of the truck, and watch a live feed on a phone and just hope that the actors hit their lines because I couldn't hear what was going on.
The script lent itself beautifully to the medium. The story starts with a guy named Ben who has complete control over his environment, his sphere if you will, but as he makes decisions, someone else forces their way into that sphere and eventually SPOILER ALERT, takes over and kicks Ben out of his sphere. 360 VR puts people right in the middle of that sphere and the only way out is to take the headset off. As that sphere turns hostile, people get incredibly uncomfortable. Someone I showed it too actually physically backed up and once they realized that the headset went with them, and didn't allow them to distance themselves from the danger, said "I can't back up!" and took off the headset and said they "didn't' want to be in there anymore", when the antagonist takes over the sphere. Properly watching VR (in a headset of some sort) really forces people into the middle of a story. In a way that is hard to do with traditional film. Watching a movie in a theater with the screen being as big as it is gets close to this, but it is not nearly as immersive as even low end VR (2D 360). There is a great power for the filmmaker that comes with this immersion that people subject themselves to when they watch your content. Did I misuse my power as a VR filmmaker? Did I use that power responsibly in eliciting an emotion? You be the judge.
Editing was the next step after shooting. The Mettle VR Tools plugins for Premiere made editing possible. I could flip footage, and alight the sphere to be centered exactly where I wanted it to be on each cut. I took more of a traditional approach to editing when it came to this project vs what I have seen before in most VR content. Usually the camera just rolls in a single shot and if it cuts, it dissolves through black to the next shot. I used maybe one dissolve and every other cut was just a straight cut, but not using jump cuts. It worked well because I carried over the audio from the interior shots when I would cut to the exterior driving shots.
One of the few shots in the film where the characters are on opposite sides of the 360 sphere from each other is when the driver approaches the hitchhiker for the first time and the camera is right in the middle of the passenger window. Even though the two characters are opposite each other, you don't have to keep whipping your head back and forth to see each other. You can see the driver in the side mirror and you can hear him talking. This allows you to watch the hitchhiker and see the driver in the lower corner, almost like a picture in picture.
For a first foray into 360 production I'd say that it was a success. What do you think, leave a comment below.