Movies 2.0

Continuing the thought from yesterday, we don’t need to wait 100 years to see a sensory evolution of the protagonist driven linear narrative.

Technologies are already emerging that allow movies to be seen from many different angles. For example, Total Cinema 360 develops software for shooting a movie using the same “see in all directions” camera that Google uses for Google Street View. Viewers can then put on an Oculus Rift and look around to see the movie in any direction.

Some computer games are a bit like movies with a user controllable camera. But games are usually more about making choices to affect the outcome than about conveying a traditional linear narrative. Probably because of this focus, the “acting” by non-player characters generally leaves much to be desired.

But game-related technology can be used another way. Suppose we just want to make a movie that can be wandered through — observed from any location and angle. Even today we can use motion capture and 3D graphical modeling, animation and rendering to create all the digital assets that would be needed to make such an immersive movie. Using emerging technologies like the newest version of the Microsoft Kinect, motion capture doesn’t even need to be prohibitively expensive.

But this is where we get to something that is not quite a movie as we know it: If the viewer can wander around the room and see things from any angle (as in immersive theatre pieces like “Tamara”, “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” and “Sleep No More”) then many of the traditional means of subliminal signaling used by filmmakers would no longer work.

The creators of such “immersive film worlds” cannot use many of the traditional filmmaker’s techniques for creating subjective experiences: The interplay between establishing shots, two-shots and close-ups, the choice of lens power and depth of focus, placing key and fill lights for a particular shot, and so forth.

New and different techniques will need to be developed, which do not rely on camera placement. Over time these new techniques will mature and evolve, and then we will truly have a new medium — Movies 2.0.

3 thoughts on “Movies 2.0”

  1. Ken,

    Our students did a 360 degree movie last semester in one of their projects. One of the key takeaways for them was that is was MUCH more like doing a play than a movie. Once they had that metaphor in their heads – a play viewer can look (almost) anywhere, there is no control of the camera, and there is no “hiding” off-camera while waiting to go into a scene other than being in another room – they had a much easier time creating it. It was still exceedingly difficult to do, however, and I think they would love to discuss the process with you.


  2. Hey Ken —

    Hopefully this won’t seem like too much of a tangent, but with regard to this post and the previous one, I’d like to draw your attention to the work done by Naughty Dog on the Uncharted series, and, more recently, on The Last of Us, not to imply that what they’ve done is THE future of interactive linear narrative, but as an example of one group’s approach to it. Unlike many developers who skirt the whole “story vs. gameplay” debate, or champion the idea that they are creating “games first, narratives second”, the developers at Naughty Dog have always been pretty up front about the fact that games are, for them, a (linear) storytelling medium.

    Many have argued that if they want to tell a story then why are they making games? If they want to make games that looks like movies, why not just make a movie, and save themselves the trouble?

    I would argue that the key innovation that ND brought to games, was in creating an interactive experience in which you are not the protagonist, but rather you are given the opportunity to “walk a mile” in his or her throughout the linear progression of the protagonist’s story. Gameplay is designed to provoke similar emotions in the player to those felt by the protagonist: at a point in the story when the protagonist is feeling trapped or vulnerable, the player is placed in a situation where the gameplay makes them feel trapped or vulnerable, so that when we step out of the character’s shoes (during the cinematics) we feel that much closer to them.

    In this way, I believe they have created at least one version of Movies 2.0 (maybe Movies 1.5), in that they have brought something unique to the protagonist-driven linear narrative that enhances the audience’s experience beyond what is possible in passive media. On some level it must be working, as they have consistently released some of the highest-rated games (by both critics and players) in the industry.

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