My concepts of filmmaking were recently catapulted into a new world. It is no longer enough for filmmakers to capture images to tell a story for audiences to then watch passively on a screen. Technological advances in virtual reality (VR) are creating audience interest in new forms of entertainment and media.
I recently attended The Lab, hosted by Screen NSW in collaboration with Screen Australia, Event Cinemas and the Australian Film Television and Radio School. It is the first stage of a scheme to develop VR and make NSW an industry hub.
VR places you directly inside the experience. Instead of viewing a screen at a distance, the vision is strapped onto your face and you are able to interact within 3D worlds. 360 Vision puts you at the centre of the action, allowing you to look around in all directions, watching content that was recorded simultaneously by a collection of cameras at one single point in space. The developing 3D art form has practical challenges: a heavy headset and that a small amount of camera movement can make you want to vomit!
In VR, battles are being fought about ‘capture’ (how it is shot) and the platform or console on which audiences experience and access the content. We might end up buying several VR devices: Sony can access 36 million existing PS owners when they launch the Playstation VR, and Samsung’s Gear was given away with smartphone purchases in America. The much-hyped HoloLens is an augmented reality device that adds 3D computer-generated scenes to your view of the real world.
Competing technologies aside, what is certain is that VR is no longer a fad. By 2020 the prediction is a $40 billion spend on devices and software worldwide. VR, it seems, will only stop evolving once the experience it provides is indistinguishable from reality.
From my current perspective as the NFSA’s National Documentary Program Deliverables Coordinator, archiving VR and the associated technology to experience it, will be a challenge. Just one five-minute VR project can require up to one terabyte (TB) of data storage. To give you an idea of how much that is, the NFSA’s digital collection is currently growing at around 32 terabytes per month. In total we hold one petabyte of data (1000 terabytes).