VR You For Real?: How VR is Changing Production, and the World

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Just this last weekend, a movie called “Ready Player One,” made by some dude named Steven Spielberg, hopped into theaters and made some solid cheddar. About a kid who teams up with some buddies to find the key to controlling a utopian virtual reality, “Ready Player One” is the latest fantastical examination of the concept of VR on steroids. (Sidenote: this is not me recommending the film, it was … so vanilla.)

But “Ready Player One” is riding a serious VR wave of craze right now, whether it’s fictional portrayals (Netlfix’s “Black Mirror” made a truly terrifying episode centered on it) or actual new breakthroughs (I myself played a “Star Wars” VR demo recently and was … enraptured). Even Trove itself has dabbled in working with some VR with a video we did for a company called Stork Burnt Down, for their new game, "Home Improvisation." While the technology may not reach its full, “Ready Player One” potential in our lifetime, it is growing in popularity -- and in application. And as a company that specializes in video production, virtual reality is, uh, probably something we should address, as it is totally changing the game when it comes to visual media. It’s applications are seemingly endless, and we’re going to take a look at a few in this week’s blog!

Let’s start with the obvious ones …

They Got Game: Gaming

So this is probably the aspect of VR that we are all most familiar with, as pop culture has made this the most popular take on it. We can thank a freaking savant, a kid named Palmer Luckey, for that, since at the age of seventeen he built his first model of something many of us have come to hear a lot about in recent years -- the Oculus Rift. The kid raised 2.4 million dollars on Kickstarter, 974% more than what he asked, and cranked out the Oculus, the first affordable (somewhat) VR headset. VR has always been a conversation, but it was a hushed, quiet one; now it’s a deafening roar. And Luckey, who just sold Oculus to Facebook for 3 billion dollars, was the guy that started that roar. Speaking of Facebook …

Communication Breakdown: VR in Communication and Social Media

As previously mentioned mere sentences ago, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg (a bit of a controversial figure the last week or so) threw down a fat triple bill for Oculus, but he wants nothing to with the gaming aspect. For Zucky-B, VR is all about what he’s always been about -- communication. Zuckerberg, among others, envision using VR to create increasingly interactive methods of virtual communication. It could be a more professional note, like not even having to leave your house to attend a doctor’s appointment or have a work meeting, or a more casual, social approach, such as having online chats where you can actually hang with somebody’s avatars. Imagine chilling with your friends … without chilling with your friends? May not be the healthiest thing ever, but it’s becoming a possibility.

Breaking the Fourth Wall: VR in Film and Television

 Alejandro, save an Oscar for someone else, you monster.

Alejandro, save an Oscar for someone else, you monster.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu, who won a pair of Oscars for directing “Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” and “The Revenant,” also won another, less high profile, honorary Oscar for a major VR cinematic breakthrough with his short film, “Carne y Arena.” A story about Mexican immigrants attempting to cross the border, “Carne y Arena” proved to be an astonishing, immersive venture into the VR world, as the viewer went with the immigrants on their journey. While many doubt that VR could totally stage a cinematic coup and take over film or TV,  it definitely offers a new type of experience in the field.

Take little Henry, an animated hedgehog who is the star of another award-winning VR short film from 2015. In an interview about their development of “Henry,” the creators discuss what makes a VR film different from a regular film. While film and television can be vibrant and alive, a VR film or show puts you into the story to the point that you feel like you’re a part of it, and may actually be influencing it in some way, even though you aren’t. It goes from the more passive experience of watching a rehearsed, finished film to being in a film that doesn’t seem to be finished, but is occurring as you’re experiencing it. It’s some “Westworld” level stuff that, honestly, kind of freaks me out.

Full Court Press: Journalism

One of the more unique takes on VR, journalism is attempting to adopt the new medium due to the unfortunate fact that journalism is dying, and is under attack on a regular basis these days. But VR is a perfect vehicle for journalists. Watching the news or reading an article about the ongoing crisis in Syria is obviously impactful and emotional. However, if one could actually simulate the experience of being right there in Syria, and experiencing what exactly is happening albeit from a safe distance, the impact would be exponentially greater. Sort of along the same line as the film/television VR concepts, the immersion the VR experience would have to offer is the big reason behind the movement. Although, of course, the call to action that journalism VR would have to offer would be much more significant than that of film, I can admit.

Are You Not Entertained?: Sports, Music, and Live Entertainment

 A descent into madness.

A descent into madness.

If any of you guys followed the absolute chaos that was this year’s March Madness basketball tournament, you probably saw a handful of commercials that aired fairly regularly about being courtside for basketball games “from the comfort of your own home,” to use a common/overused advertising turn of phrase. But, despite the rampant abuse of that phrase, such things are indeed becoming possible.

Let’s be honest; nothing matches the thrill of actually being in the stands of a dope football game, or in the pit at a preposterously entertaining concert, but it appears that VR is rapidly becoming the next best thing. One of the earlier stages of VR saw you slide your phone into a cardboard headset, flicking on an app, and watching a Paul McCartney concert as if you were backstage. Maybe I’m amazed at the way VR would love me all the time, or maybe I’m afraid of the way I’d love VR. Either way, pretty cool. In fact, speaking of March Madness, VR packages were offered where you could view select games from a camera angle of your choice, complete with noise from the crowd.

Tour Up From the Floor Up: Tourism

In a similar vein of viewing some live (ish) entertainment, how about wanting to check out what’s going down in Paris without having to throw down the truly bonkers dough to get over there? Or Hawaii, or Australia, or Tegucigalpa? (Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras, don’t pretend like you knew where it was.) Or maybe you’re trying to figure out a place where you want to physically go, but a picture just won’t do to help you make your decision to go or not. Again, another situation where experiencing the real thing would be more engaging, for sure, but still, would be pretty awesome to just tag out from an exhausting day and head over to Amsterdam for a few minutes thanks to some VR action.

Call of Duty: VR in Military Training

So perhaps I chose a bit of an insensitive title for this section with the video game reference, but honestly, when it comes to VR combat training, “Call of Duty” isn’t far off. Various militaries have shown interest in establishing VR as an integral part of their training, whether it’s advanced flight, battlefield, or vehicle training. They’ve even pondering virtual reality bootcamp, which I’m not sure how I feel about. Is it better to be screamed at by an actual person or a frighteningly real virtual person?

 Gotta' make sure the safety's on.

Gotta' make sure the safety's on.

If You Build It, VR Will Come: Fashion and Architecture

So fashion and architecture may not seem the most similar of items to group together, but I chose to because, ultimately, they both deal with the construction of something, and VR is a perfect realm to map out those constructions. If you’re a fashion designer, why scribble a sketch of a dress in a notepad when you can actually construct it virtually and have a few avatars throw it on, like a Versace/”Tron” crossover? If you’re an architect fixing to build a hotel, for example, same deal; why whip out pages on pages on pages of blueprints when you can just toss on a headset and build yourself a fatty Overlook? If you’re in the business of constructing anything, whether it’s a pair of shoes or a pair of skyscrapers, VR is the way to go for some construction strategy.

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme’ the News: VR’s Endless Medical Applications

Alright, so despite everything we’ve heard about VR’s potential effects on the entertainment front, it's truly incredible the amount of breakthroughs modern medicine is using VR for. Whether it’s for rehab, therapy, or straight education, the medical field seems to almost be the field most aggressively pursuing VR usage, and in truly miraculous ways. Afraid of flying? Toss on a VR headset when you board and spend some time on a beach instead. Are you an aspiring medical surgeon? Hop into virtual reality to get some first hand experience AS a surgeon performing the surgery.

And these aren’t just fantasies -- they’re reality. Some surgeons have actually been donning VR goggles for students to experience in their education. Burn victims have been using virtual realities where they have snowball fights with penguins while listening to Paul Simon (I’m not even kidding), and, as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s actually helped significantly. Soldiers with PTSD have been exposed to VR to relive their traumatic experiences and work through them in therapy as they occur. VR simulations have been created where children with autism can work through virtual social scenarios to learn how better to function socially in everyday life. 8 paraplegic people entered a VR program where they were soccer players moving across a field, and ALL 8 PEOPLE had their conditions improve, four of whom went from full paraplegics to partial. This is mind blowing, incredible stuff.

Now you may have just read through the entire length of this blog and are now asking “What uh … what does that have to do with video production?” Well, frankly, this is a whole new phase of video production, a brave new world, if you will, as VR will provide a host of wild new possibilities as to how videos are shot and produced. The times they are a changin’, folks. Who knows, maybe in a few years, you’ll be able to actually live my blogs. What a glorious day that will be!

Thanks again for reading this week folks, and, as always, if you were particularly enamored with my writing and whimsy, check out the other blogs on our website! See you guys next week!