Cardboard Reality

I finally got around to getting my hands on a Google Cardboard VR headset. Cardboard is a low-cost, easy-to-get virtual reality viewer that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset.

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Film Auteur Werner Herzog had been ranting on about VR [1],

“What reality is the cockroach at my feet in the kitchen experiencing? It is not my reality, we only share the same space.”

so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Is Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really a new 21st century art form? With not too much bother I assembled the Cardboard viewer, its a cheap alternative to the myriad of other viewers out there…HTC Vive VR headset, Durovis Dive, Homido, Samsung Gear VR, Carl Zeiss VR One, Cmoar, OSVR, Fibrum, HTC Vive, Sony Morpheus, Oculus Rift DK1 etc. The Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus (which is more game orienteted) looked the most promising to me.

Anyway back to my poor man’s version, the cardboard…I downloaded a few apps that looked interesting.

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First up was Bjorks Stonemilker, which was good, especially the way she seemed to jump out from her own body and into a new position…but I managed to ‘break it’ by trying to take a screenshot whilst it was playing, but this was interesting in itself as it threw up some code and ‘inner workings’ as to how it might be made. Stonemilker was directed by Andrew Thoamas Huang and produced by VRSE.com. They seem to be ahead of the pack in the VR game, Chris Milk is a former video artist who runs it.

The next x3 pieces I watched were all produced by VRSE, ‘Take Flight’, a marvellous short excursion into the heavens above New York City. ‘Evolution of Verse’ that takes you face to face with a foetus in the womb, quite amazing, and finally ‘Catatonic’ a creepy wheelchair ride through an insane asylum. All three were fairly amazing, you the viewer being immersed directly into their environment. Catatonic was the most unsettling, as when you swivel 360 degrees and look up directly at the orderly who is pushing you in the wheelchair right above you…you realise its not an orderly anymore!

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So how does film making for VR differ from traditional film making? some main points below;

  • You can’t frame a 360 shot
  • There are no cuts
  • Death of the Close-up?
  • The character can know you are there, and be right beside you
  • The main protagonist sacrilegiously cuts through the fourth wall, and makes a direct connection with you via eye contact
  • You must try and draw the viewers eyes to the different places they can look at and explore
  • Scale. Object sizes aren’t always in real-world ratios. Sometimes certain scale ratios are based on what feels right, rather than what would be mathematically correct
  • Focus on movement that matters, so that movements are computed in real time to adjust to the viewers perspective
  • Sound. Directional binaural sound
  • Don’t overload your rendering machines, Oculus headsets show images at 90 frames per second which is a huge computional burden. Reduce the load in a CG production, mathematical bounding boxes are calculated around objects, if the viewer isn’t look at something in particular, then it doesn’t render

The Cardboard was the best $10 I ever spent.

Note to Self:

  • Not sure how this impacts on my making, if at all, as the technology seems to be customised or else priced out of reach.
  • There is a great 360 degree camera called ‘Neo’ by a company by Jaunt, but they aren’t even for sale, they envisage leasing them out to interested parties in the future.
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2 thoughts on “Cardboard Reality

  1. Hi Chris, thanks. Yes we are exploring similar territory, will check the video. Yes the cardboard does the job! Gave the Ricoh Theta 360 camera a rest as the video was very muddy, (stills are excellent though). there was someone in here the other day with a z-cam, a cool 360 camera, can export 6k footage! P.

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