This blog has previously pondered about the form that VR
cinema would take and how film producers and directors would manage the action.
What if you miss a key plot device because you are busy watching a sub plot or
sneaking a peek behind the buildings that you are meant to be inside? Well, we
are pleased to say that virtual reality cinema has arrived – and it’s the
audience who are in charge of the action.
Melbourne has opened the world’s first virtual reality equipped cinema with seats that swivel 360 degrees, have a vibration sensor and a fair number of controls. There are only 12 seats in the cinema at present, as all the kinks and details still need to be perfected, so this cinema is something of a test case for the business. So far, the reviews are positive, but it is a very different experience to the current passive voyeurism of traditional cinema.
The controls are there because VR movies are more like interactive explorations than straight forward story telling. The audience decides where to go next at various points of the action, so these films are more like those books where you could choose the ending: Does Stacy open the bedroom door and see the romantic layout that Bob has put out for her, or does she head for the front door and settle for a lonely existence as a slightly mad cat lady? You choose?!
VR Cinema is a much more intimate experience than you have ever experienced in a movie theatre before: you are one of the crowd, fleeing the Zombie invasion, or you are a punter in the Wild West Saloon, and because it is you immersed in the action, it feels like a very intimate process. It feels very much like you and the movie one on one, almost, rather than you and the rest of the audience sitting passively waiting for the movie to do all the hard work, if you see what I mean.
Point of view changes and important information is now rendered as interior monologue, spoken through the headset into your ears, rather than as montages or the other visual renderings used in traditional cinema to indicate passage of time and place, or the voice over to ensure the audience understand what is happening.
VR cinema will not replace traditional cinema for a number of reasons: it is hard to snog in the back row with a headset on, and it would be very weird to walk out smiling while your friend or spouse is in tears because they went down a different route of the narrative. IN fact, VR cinema is likely to be a fairly isolating phenomenon with each person having a very different experience of the same piece of footage: but in the long run, it will enrich us, giving us a brand new cultural media with which to experiment.