Days of Future Past

When we try to describe the new immersive cinematic medium that our Future Reality Lab is creating, exemplified by CAVE at SIGGRAPH 2018, it’s difficult to properly convey the idea to people who haven’t seen it.

We can’t just say something like this: “It’s like going to the movies crossed with theater crossed with being in a video game.” If we do that, people usually get the wrong idea about what we’re up to. They think that it’s a video game, or that it’s like Facebook Spaces or High Fidelity, when it’s really very different from any of those things.

I find myself imagining a futurist in 1926, in days of future past, trying to explain the soon to be released film The Jazz Singer. Maybe this visionary could say: “It’s like a movie, but with sound.”

But that wouldn’t work, because movies already had sound. Pretty much every movie you went to back then had a score, and a very talented organist playing along.

Maybe the futurist could say: “It’s like a movie, but people are talking.” But that wouldn’t work, because actors already talked in movies. And the intertitles were right up there on the screen, to tell you what they were saying.

Maybe it would have worked best if the futurist had said: “It’s like a movie crossed with radio.” That might have sounded completely crazy to people in 1926, but they probably would have gotten the idea.

We need to find our equivalent, for what we are doing in 2019, to “It’s like a movie crossed with radio.”

One Response to “Days of Future Past”

  1. David A Smith says:

    I just thought of an idea that meshes well with what you are doing (and as usual, you have likely already thought about this – you are always a step ahead of me). You currently have a very primitive form of human participation. You rely on the audience being aware of the other audience members to highlight the experience. I think you are not going far enough though. Another approach is have the actors be real people. But more than that, they have the ability to directly engage with the users in a unique way. I was thinking about what a comic that engages with his audience might do if he was able to mess around with them. He could do things like pull a random audience member on stage with him. Change their appearance. Maybe shuffle the seats. It would be fascinating to watch someone create a unique 3D world right in front of you based upon a request from the audience. “Make the Taj Mahal”. And the artist would build a reasonable version of it in a few minutes. You could have him on a spinning stage as he creates it. Sort of like making balloon animals but in this case the animals start walking around once they are complete. You can even take them home with you. I love the idea of someone real introducing me to a new universe that they are composing and controlling in real time. JazzVR – the musicians construct a soundscape as they play. Each instrument and player have their own visual representation that flows out into the audience. Bass Drum shimmers the background color, piano has a colorful particle system flowing out and around the audience. Flute is a butterflies flocking. The interesting thing about VR is that it is really a communication medium. Live theater is where this idea will really blossom.

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