Pixvana summer intern Lucas picks top VR films in Animation, Experimental Documentary, Live Action, and Music Videos.
Here's how to organize a VR film festival.
If you were hoping to catch a glimpse of the future of cinema through VR technology you’ll have to wait. Unless you went to the last Sundance, Kaleidoscope, Tribeca, or Cannes Film Festival, you most likely missed the latest batch of VR films. Those that did not attend major film festivals will have to wait some time until the most recent VR films show up in their respective apps on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung GearVR, and Google Cardboard.
In the meantime, I - Pixvana Summer Intern Lucas Gomez - have been researching and compiling a list of the most interesting films that you can watch today from the comfort of your couch. My summer project was to organize our very own 2016 Pixvana VR Film Festival.
I would firstly like to thank each and every person that worked on all of the films and videos I had the pleasure viewing. It takes an enormous amount of determination, creativity and energy to push something only before seen in science fiction into the forefront of technology today.
For the Pixvana film festival program, I began by researching films online and then categorizing my top picks into four genres: Animation, Experimental Documentary, Live Action, and Music Videos.
Make sure to note where the films live, so that you can easily install the player apps and preload content onto the corresponding headset. It's risky to rely solely on wi-fi to stream content. For the entire list of films, take a look at my Google Spreadsheet.
VR Film Festival Challenges
While many films are available on both the Vive and Oculus, a large number are limited to a specific head-mounted display (HMD). View the spreadsheet above to learn how I associated each film with the corresponding device and media player.
Another challenge you may face when hosting your own film festival is bandwidth limitations. Many files are over a gigabyte in size and will require significant time to download if you aren’t blessed with high speed internet.
An additional hurdle is storage space on mobile devices. Allotting space for videos on an Android device can force you to delete various photos, videos, or music as I had done. However, my phone did only have 8Gb of memory available.
Finally, don't forget about headset hygiene!
My Top Four VR Films
Small ideas can erupt into cutting edge cinematography using VR for animation, especially for independent animators. This is still a largely untapped area and a real treat to witness the large scope of work. Free engines such as UDK that can be utilized to create extravagant works.
My pick for animation is The Butcher by Cirkus Studios. This video stems from the series Jack of All Trades following the character Jack as he tries several different professions. Keep in mind this video contains some really dark humor and might not be suited for everyone. But the animation style has a notable uniqueness that melds well with the bizarre world the characters are in. If you did enjoy this video, be sure to view the rest of the episodes in this series from Cirkus. The Butcher is viewable on Google Cardboard via Youtube and the Oculus Rift through the VRideo app.
This category has really gotten me excited. Really, any documented historical event could be used here. Ideally this would be used to create a deeper understanding of things we couldn’t normally experience. A drawback from using VR is that it can be easy to skew history to glorify particular events or alter them from their original account/accuracy. While a beautiful new experience, caution should be taken when believing what you see.
My Mothers Wing from the With.in app is a heart wrenching story of a Somaia Okal, a mother living in the Gaza Strip, who has lost two children from the conflict between the Palestine people and Israeli occupants. From here she states that both sides of this argument have similar stories and that both sides can come together using their losses as a common ground for a peaceful resolution. This video, funded by the United Nations to shed light on the lives lost in a terrible conflict that can be ended. My Mother’s Wing is viewable on the Samsung GearVR, Google Cardboard,HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift from the With.in app.
This genre needs much more attention. Right now most live action VR Films are trying to improve the stitching quality to create a better picture for everyone to see on a headset. But considering these are the first iteration of VR films using conventional cameras, these are very impressive videos.
My favorite live action film right now is Kaiju Fury: Sundance Selection. While it is super low budget in comparison to all the other films that are using 3D animation alongside their actors. Kaiju Fury just gushes references to old school monster movies like Godzilla. Implementing VR video in a costume monster movie is a really gusty idea and I think it came out great in a nostalgic, almost comedic, way. Despite being only 3 minutes long, I am impressed with New Deal Studio’s work and can’t wait until they make another. Kaiju Fury can be viewed on the Samsung GearVR, Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift using the Jaunt VR app.
Much like live action, music videos using live actors need more technological development in camera work. But you can also use animation as many other designers have. Old Friends is a great example of this. It is labeled as “Coming Soon” inside the Wevr app for Vive as it has been shown at film festivals for the first half of 2016. This will only be on Vive since it requires the use of controllers, so be on the lookout. Storytelling can really be pushed with music videos as we see on other sources. VR pushes that farther. A story can be felt and explored inside a VR film.
Naive New Beaters - Heal Tomorrow has intriguing story inside of it’s video. So much happens all around you, even bellow you, that you may need to watch it multiple times to see all there is to see. For a great all around music video, Naive new Beaters is a fun video to watch. It can be seen on Google Cardboard through the Youtube app.
Another blooming genre is visual and digital art. Here you can do anything from creating a live performance inside a headset, to creating your own digital artist studio experience. The Salvador Dali museum in Florida is using this exquisitely. Making a 360º view inside a piece of Dali’s work, the museum highlights the functionality of VR outside of home, using it to highlight an exhibit piece and viewable from home on Youtube. Another example recreates Van Gogh’s painting, “The Night Cafe” which is downloadable from the Steam Store.
Hi, I'm Lucas.
I'm a summer 2016 intern at Pixvana originally from Ventura, CA. I'll be starting into my sophomore year of University at Humboldt State in Fall 2016 and am currently pursuing a Computer Science degree. During my time-off I enjoy cycling, skateboarding, and making music. My time at Pixvana is limited but not the amount of knowledge I have gained from my time being here.