Well, well, finally VR filmmaking has found its way to Hollywood – in this case with director Robert Rodriguez – starring Michelle Rodriguez and Norman Reedus.
Check out the 2D trailer below:
What makes this movie remarkable is that Robert Rodriguez and the production company didn’t fall for the “VR movies must be 360° and interactive” nonsense.
Finally a VR movie done the way I was hoping for over the last 3-4 years. And something I have written about on here repeatedly. A VR movie I can enjoy passively without rotating on my chair like a madman and with real actors. Hurray!
It is not exactly VR180, as far as I can spot from the BTS pictures they went with a Red camera and the Entaniya HAL 250 lens. But only one of them, so I supposed they did the 3D in post production. The result is a wider angle than in the typical VR180 and the background has a simulated cinema (unnessecary if you ask me, could have stayed black). And the picture quality is superb, also in low light, the advantage of using real cameras with good lenses – opposed to shooting on GoPros.
You can also watch a “Making of..” trailer here: The Limit – BTS Teaser
I will not go too much into the story, plenty of other websites will be doing that probably.
The important part for me is the VR storytelling and the technical aspects in regards to VR POV – and to be honest: I am slightly disappointed here.
So let’s talk about the moving camera first:
If you have motionsickness issues in VR when the camera moves, this movie will be tough for you. Lots of quick movements including running and even falling out of an airplane. Personally I had no problems but I have the feeling that some people definitely will.
One suggestion from me at this point: Use a gimbal and even if it’s slightly unrealistic, don’t simulate steps but keep the camera flowing absolutely steady. At least while walking. It helps people to not become sick.
Also: In a couple shots the camera is suddenly at knee level for no obvious reason, I didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean.
Now about immersion:
For quite some part of the movie they really accomplish what I was hoping for, making the viewer part of the movie. Michelle Rodriguez carries the story by talking to the POV character (you, the viewer) and gives you the needed information what is happening.
But they really should have hired a VR POV consultant (like me – hint, hint 😉 ) because among my previous target audience, some parts of this movie would have caused an outrage.
It starts with that they couldn’t make up their minds about whether to show the POV characters body when you look down – or not. Sometimes you do have a body (for the larger part of the movie), but then occasionally you don’t. If you are totally immersed into the story and suddenly your body is missing that’s a little weird.
Next thing is: It is well established that the camera for a VR POV shoot should always be in the same axis with the rest of your body. And when then something happens next to you: This is what VR is for, you can actually turn your head in that direction. But in many shots in The Limit your legs point in one direction and your head (the camera) points in another direction. Also weird.
Also: Cuts with closeups. Suddenly your face is super close to something and you wonder how you got there. Doesn’t work.
And the really worst part is: For a few shots you will have an out-of-body experience when you suddenly see the POV character (YOU!) walking away from you from a 3rd person perspective. Why on earth do that?
Not mentioning the end of the movie (Spoiler!) where you suddenly switch into another body and start talking (after being silent throughout the movie).
I really don’t want to discourage anyone (not that Robert Rodriguez will read this – but in case he does: I really would like to work with you on the next one!! 😀 ), I still enjoyed the movie. And I hope many filmmakers will be inspired to try their own project in this format.
I just think that it can be improved by taking care of a couple things next time that help not to break immersion for the user – the most important thing when it comes to VR movies.
TL;DR: Always treat the VR camera like an actual actor and don’t do anything with it that a human actor cannot do.