Track 45 left, part 4

I really liked Weston’s comments on my previous post on this topic. A movie has always been a experience to visit for relatively brief periods of time (at least, if we are talking only about mainstream movies). Yet it seems that in recent years, filmed fictional narrative has been preparing for the advent of complete immersion — for the visual equivalent of getting lost in a novel.

We are now very much in the age of long form filmed narrative, of The Sopranos, of Breaking Bad, House of Cards and A Game of Thrones. Nearly two decades ago in the U.S., Buffy the Vampire Slayer was practically unique in having sustained multi-year narrative and character arcs. Now everyone else seems to be catching up to Joss Whedon.

If we end up losing the frame — and if, as Ridley Scott posited in Blade Runner, the camera position can shift even as you watch — will this complete the transition of cinematic art from the long short story to the full fledged novel? Are we witnessing parallel developments of narrative form and technical enablement?

Technically, we are not quite there yet. Our cameras are now able to capture movies in full 360 surround, but the audience of those 360 movies cannot quite yet wander freely around the set. To do that, we will essentially need to create a fusion of cinema and high quality computer graphics, in which the set will be stored as a representation of itself in the form of a high quality textured 3D model.

Of course this is the approach that has been continually evolving for years in high end computer games. Not coincidentally, such games are generally constructed as long-form narratives, in which a fictional world is meant to be experienced — and explored — over the course of days or even weeks.

Maybe that’s why Joss Whedon has taken on the Avengers movies. He might be angling sometime in the next few years to come full circle back to what he started in Buffy: Writing and directing the first truly long form fully immersive cinematic novel. And he might just pull it off, given that he has the financial might of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures behind him.

One Response to “Track 45 left, part 4”

  1. Weston C.B. says:

    I wonder if anyone’s working on this already? I bet Epic Games has some secret department with an engine 40% complete :)

    Though I suppose we’re still a little ways off from being able to create 3D scenes acceptable for cinema in real-time, and people will probably be satisfied for the first couple of years with 360 film or something. Then again, seems like there are some trends in real-time rendering that are bringing it closer to offline film techniques: 3D object scanning is gaining in prevalence (in a big way, I believe), and we’re getting closer to being able to do full simulations with physically based rendering techniques, which seems like it’ll bring with it a big jump forward just because it’s a simpler structure to base techniques on. Maybe with heavy dependence on sophisticated level-of-detail schemes we can pull it off soon…

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