I was on a panel this evening about the future evolution of VR. At one point I made the argument that people who try to “make their film in VR” are getting it very wrong. In fact, I argued, VR is essentially the very opposite of cinema.
The most salient feature of a movie is that everybody in the audience sees exactly the same thing. The goal of a cinematographer, an editor, a lighting designer in movie making is, in fact, to optimize for a single viewpoint. The craft of filmmaking is built around this fundamental imperative.
In contrast, future content in VR will have far more in common with theater: Everybody will see events unfold from their own unique viewpoint. VR has even more in common with immersive theater, in which audience members are free to roam around on their own.
Pre-cybernetic versions of this kind of experience stretch back for centuries. Recent examples include the current Sleep no More, as well as both Tony and Tina’s Wedding and Tamara from a generation ago.
Those experiences could be experienced only by relatively audiences — unlike a movie, which can be seen by hundreds of millions of people. VR holds the promise of combining the best of both worlds: the sense of participation of immersive theater, as well as the potential for massive distribution we see today in cinema.
The sorts of emergent talents needed to make this kind of content will probably not come mainly from the world of filmmaking. They are more likely to come from the worlds of interactive theater and game design.