We can’t express how deeply Vision Summit inspired our thinking in the AR/VR space. While we’ve discussed our biggest take-aways from the blockbuster Keynote, and dove deep into the current state of AR and VR, what really helps set Vision Summit apart from more focused gaming or AR/VR conferences, is its inclusion of VR Cinema.

It’s on this frontier that we’ve been overcome with excitement.

While we’ve been watching this space for the last year and have been tinkering here and there with our own projects, we really came to understand the explosive potential of VR Cinema at Vision Summit and it rocked our world.

Our final Vision Summit update will be focused on what we saw, what we learned and give hints to where we see the future is heading.

 

VR Cinema

There is a reason, perhaps symbolic, why both Oculus Connect and Vision Summit are held in Hollywood, and we don’t think it’s simply because of the amount of developers in the region.

No, it seems likely that they are attempting to signal where they believe the future of VR lies, and short of “everywhere” it’s clear they feel it’s in a good position to displace much of what we consider today’s traditional cinema.

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View of the Hollywood Hills from the Vision Summit

Now as with many things in the VR community, there is much debate about what does or doesn’t constitute “VR”, a chief format that is often targeted as being “not VR” is 360 Video.

Here’s one of our favorite examples of 360 Video:

 

In contrast to 360 VR, most seem to agree that wholly GCI experiences such as Pixar-esque Henry, do constitute VR Cinema.

 

While we tend to agree that 360 Video, though best consumed on VR devices, isn’t VR. It is instead more simply “just” 360 Video. Still a novel experience in its own right the term is clear enough to express the experience and differentiate it from other forms of video.

So we have some sense of how an animated VR Cinema may work, and see the obvious limits of 360 Video, but for VR cinema to succeed it will need to be more than just animated products. So how can we create experiences with live action actors or sets? For our money there is still nothing conceived digitally that is quite like the experience of having a flesh and blood actor. Is there any hope that this type of experience can be a “VR” experience?

Enter Photogrammetry

Just as the early days of cinema involved shooting theatrical productions and lacked sound and color, 360 cinema is likely to be a temporary step in the march towards what we’re struggling to define as “Live Action Cinematic VR”. Ultimately, we don’t care what something is called so long as the nature of the experience being discussed is clearly understood, so let us define this term more properly for discussion sake. By “Live Action Cinematic VR” we mean a form of cinema whereby the actors are “captured live”, though the technology, closer to 3D-scanning meets motion capture (what could be called Motion Photogrammetry), where images are created in the same fashion as traditional photogrammetry, but in fully motion.

This video discusses non-motion Photogrammetry:

 

As Motion Photogrammetry begins to make its way out of labs and into the hands of creators, it’s possible that a production model will evolve where each asset (set, location, prop) in the cinematic experience will be captured individually. Or in the case of a small group of actors (to improve performance) placed into a game-engine environment like that discussed in the Keynote Section. This would allow narratives to be created that utilize live-action elements, but offer the flexibility of control and immersion seen in films like Henry.

It is our belief that this is the future of Live Action Cinema.

Though nothing quite like what has being described has yet been shown publicly, or exists outside of experimental scenarios, it seems to best achieve the immersive qualities of VR, with the realism of Live Action.

So where does that leave us today? What steps are being taken to bridge us between 360 Video and Live Action Cinematic VR?

Well from what was shown at Vision Summit, it seems creators are either attempting to add some interactivity to 360 video, to give users more agency, or are creating what we are calling “Mixed Format VR Cinema” where CGI driven VR environments and props are merged with monoscopic (2D) or stereoscopic  (3D) performances captured on green screen and imported in a VR environment. While the former technique often feels like a slightly improved version of those old choose your own adventure DVD movies, the latter never quite holds your suspension of disbelief as the difference between the stereoscopic performance captures and VR-GCI environment are quiet obvious and create an unintentional “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” effect.

That said, until Motion Photogrammetry is more refined and widely available Mixed Format VR Cinema appears to be the route that offers the most immersion and follows a pipeline closer to what Motion Photogrammetry is likely to utilize.

The best examples of both these techniques shown at Vision Summit come from Mirada’s Interactive + Experimental VR projects  and Canada’s own Secret Location.

Vision Summit has posted the exceptional talk by Andrew Cochrane a Digital & New Media Director who works at Mirada. If you have any interest in where the future of cinema may lay, you should check out this talk. We’ve posted it below.

 

While many noble experiments have occurred in VR Cinema and very compelling things can be done already, none of these experience are quite ready to take on the mass market in the way traditional cinema does.

 

Final Thoughts

Beyond the beautiful weather, the mixing and mingling with talented developers, filmmakers and creatives from all over the world, and the usual business opportunities that arise at these sort of things, Vision Summit did an amazing job of showcasing the latest and greatest in the emerging mediums of AR, VR and Cinematic VR.

Its most important gifts to us wasn’t the Vive, but helping us to think more deeply about the current state and future of these technologies.

You can take watch every Vision Summit talk and panel on their YouTube page.

While this post only scratched the surface of what we could talk about, we did our best to bring you into our post-summit mind-space, and hope you found something useful to dig into for your own projects.

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Sunset over LA as seen from the Vision Summit

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The Vision Summit Mixer

For our part, one thing is certain, as we move forward on our next endeavours across the spectrum of VR Gaming, VR Cinema and AR, thoughts of the future provided to us by the Vision Summit will continue to dance about our heads.