Engaging storylines, hyper-realistic visuals, and seamless technology are all integral to creating one key outcome: immersion. It’s so vital to successful games, films, and television series that it’s become an oft-told joke in online gaming communities: you’re ruining my immersion, bro!
At this year’s NAB show, an entire panel is dedicated to the very concept. Called “Immersive Storytelling: Expanding Audiences with XR in Games, Education, and Location-Based Entertainment”, the session is poised to explore the “increasing convergence between traditional entertainment and advanced technology; how nostalgia fuels new technology adoption; and what’s next for VR/AR/XR in the entertainment industry.”
An impressive array of panellists will bring the discussion to life, including Aaron Grosky (president and COO of both Dreamscape Immersive and Dreamscape Learn), Ted Schilowitz, (futurist at Paramount) and Jake Zim (senior vice president, Virtual Reality, Sony Pictures Entertainment). A high level of immersion is both increasingly sought after and more accessible than ever – but how is it being achieved?
In many ways, certain technologies are making content more diverse, streamlined, and open. Cloud technologies are the obvious frontrunner in this regard, and have a far-reaching impact across the entire entertainment spectrum. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse was an animated short created fully remotely in the thick of the pandemic. Cinematographer Cara Speller said: “It was a very international crew, coming from 20 different countries. We started the work on the film in the middle of the pandemic, so everyone was working remotely from their homes.”
The short went on to land both a BAFTA and an Oscar. Cloud technologies are allowing the best creatives and technicians to collaborate, no matter where they are in the world. The awards are a testament to what can be achieved through technology as ultimately, it was the cloud that allowed the best possible talent to unite and create better content.
While The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse has screamed success, the countless rises and falls of 3D cinema tells a different tale. The whole idea of 3D cinema is to encourage greater immersion. Movie scenes become larger than life and are adorned with, quite literally, a newfound depth. But instead of planting the viewer directly into the world of the film, most audiences found themselves too distracted by the slightly naff 3D glasses and budding migraines. While the cinema industry has made multiple stabs at making 3D stick, it’s yet to amount to much more than a damp squib.
That being said, several new advancements in digital cameras have been incredibly well received by audiences. During the filming of Top Gun Maverick, director Joseph Kosinki and cinematographer Claudio Miranda mounted Sony VENICE cameras directly in the cockpit. The addition of detachable camera sensors allowed aerial stunts to be captured, as opposed to simply simulating them with CGI. It was a bold move, in terms of both logistics and safety. But it was also a certified success, with the crew able to create an immersive cinema spectacle that was remarkably true to life.
VR, XR, and AR are also set to be big talking points during the panel. While investment is being funnelled into these technologies, from the consumers’ perspective, the reality has yet to live up to the hype. But behind the scenes, the advancement of virtual production and XR is being accelerated by the efforts of the display industry, prompting huge leaps in film production.
For example, the production of The Batman used XR to create computer-generated environments in real-time. Picture this: where there would have once been swathes of garish green screen, were instead impressive cityscapes of Gotham bathed in sunlight, moonlight, or whatever the scene called for. For crews, the difference was immeasurable. Greater collaboration between departments aided idea generation and creativity. For actors, experiencing fictional landscapes in real-time encouraged stronger performances, ultimately leading to greater immersion for both the actors and the audience.
Technology isn’t replacing the efforts of film crews and videographers. Instead, “traditional” crews are embracing technologies – old and new – to push immersion to new heights. In contrast to the innovation witnessed on the set of The Batman, the entirety of Euphoria season two was filmed on 35mm Kodak Ektachrome film, a clear demonstration of how nostalgia can influence how we use technologies past and present to create the best results.
Ground-breaking advancements are opening up ever more possibilities for content owners and creatives to deliver thrilling, hyper-immersive outcomes. At NAB 2023, the Futuresource team will be paying close attention to the emerging tech that is proving key to realising these results.
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