The Limit by Robert Rodriguez – My Review

The Limit VR

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.

“The Limit” is a POV (point of view) movie – like Hardcore Henry or the music video “Bad Motherfucker” by Biting Elbows from the same director (who kind of started the POV action movie genre).

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.


No, Virtual Reality is not the medium for 90 minute feature movies

VR 90 Minutes

Repeatedly in my conversations about VR movies over the last years I heard from the other person “I cannot imagine sitting there with a headset for 90 minutes to watch a movie!”

Here’s the thing: 90 minute feature movies are not what VR is made for.

VR film-making is about using the strengths of VR and build a story around them.

It is about immersion, about how to pull the viewer into the story, maybe even make him/her part of the story.

This alone is so emotionally draining and requires the undivided attention of the viewer that it is unthinkable to do this for 90 or even 60 minutes without any interruption.

This is why the physical aspect of having to wear a VR headset for 90 uninterrupted minutes is a moot point. A real VR movie, made by a knowledgeable VR filmmaker,  takes care of the special requirements of VR film-making.

And that means: An immersive experience of not more than 15 to 20 minutes that takes the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster (and please not again a real roller-coaster – thank you).


A weekend in Berlin: 500 Euro – Gain of knowledge: priceless

On the 17th of February 2018 I made myself on the way to Berlin/Germany to participate in some events about VR movie making that happened around the Berlinale Filmfestival 2018.

I have to admit that over the last two years I lived a bit in a friendly bubble of being able to explore VR video while being backed by a client that gave us everything we needed to experiment and achieve results.

But of course in return our client expected to be profitable at some point, otherwise the whole venture would be moot.

Now color me surprised when I discovered that basically the whole VR industry at this point more or less openly admits that nobody makes money (yet).

Besides companies selling things to each other maybe.

But a profitable VR product that is being sold to the end consumer?
Not so much.

Instead everyone is living on seed money, VC and government grants.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really need to find out where I can apply for government grants as well and I also don’t blame anyone for taking money when it is given to them.

And many things in AR/VR are still experimental and far from being a product that is ready to be sold. And we definitely need these experiments to move forward and get to a point where these experiments can be turned into real world products.

But as somebody who has been in sales for the last 25 years, my real world experience has always been: if your product is not profitable, it is either something people don’t need or you are bad at selling it.

Which brings is to the inevitable question: Is VR something people don’t need? Or is everyone just really bad at selling it?

I guess time will tell.

Why Virtual Reality still needs real people – and VR 180° 3D

VR filmmaking

Recently I looked deep into the eyes of a beautiful girl which was just inches away from me and saw: nothing.

Don’t get me wrong – she looked almost as perfect and lifelike as her real counterpart who was scanned, digitized and brought into this virtual world.

But at the end she was still just computer generated and…. soulless.

I used to work in a world where the sparkle in the eye of a person could mean the difference between a day work for nothing and money thrown out of the window – or a sales hit.

Nowadays technology gives us everything we need to create the exact digital copy of a human being, up to the point where it seems possible to bring back Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart for a Casablanca sequel.

But even if it will be almost impossible to tell just from the picture which one is the original and which one is the CGI character: Will the CGI actor/actress be able to achieve this little bit extra of human soul in their eyes and tremble in their voice? The things that make a human unique?

If you ask me: No.

At least not for a foreseeable future.

Now Virtual Reality is not just games and roller coaster rides, even though a large percentage of consumers out there are still under this impression.

But to broaden the potential audience, VR needs to cover all bases and that also includes movie entertainment.

The good thing is: Right now we haven’t barely scratched the surface of new possibilities that VR offers to filmmakers.

The bad thing is: currently too much content is being labeled as “VR Movie” and at the end it’s just a 360° 2D video of the same old stuff.

Where are the VR movies that drag the viewer into the story and make him/her a part of it?

Where are the VR movies that offer different perspectives, different story lines and different experiences depending on the choice of the viewer?

And to get back to my original point: If I want to create a real VR movie that gives the viewer the impression of being part of the story, it cannot be computer generated. It has to have real people/actors. Because only with real actors you will achieve real emotions among your viewers.

As a filmmaker myself, I perfectly understand the hurdles of VR video production, especially in a format like VR 180° 3D.

But then it is my firm conviction that only this format offers the perfect combination of immersion and comfort for the viewer. Because only 3D really drags you into the story and only VR 180° makes it possible to relax and enjoy without being stressed about what might happen behind your back and rotating on your chair like a madman.

And yet – also due to the lack of proper cameras – it is basically only the adult industry that embraced this format. And if you think about it for a second, you probably will understand why it is so popular there.

That – and because there are real people and not CGI characters involved.

To conclude: VR filmmaking needs real people, it needs VR 180° 3D and it needs filmmakers that understand the additional possibilities  that VR offers for new and exciting stories.

But then it will be awesome.

Speaking at DSE 2017

Still at my previous position I had the pleasure of speaking at the Digital Sports & Entertainment congress in Berlin on October 16th, 2017 about how the adult industry is a leader in Virtual Reality content and how the mainstream industry can learn from that.

It has been a great experience to share the stage with prestigious companies like Adidas, Sky, Sport1, ProSieben, German Football League (DFL) or Red Bull and speakers from famous teams like Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen or FC Schalke 04.

5 Reasons why VR 180° 3D is the better format for VR Video

Google VR180

There is still a lot of misconception about what VR video actually is, for most people there is no doubt that 360° 2D video would count as VR for example – just because you can watch it in a VR headset.

Well, I do strongly disagree on that.

VR is about user immersion, he/she has to feel as part of the story. And a 2D video will never create that feeling in the same way as a 3D video does.

360° 3D video would of course work but has serious technical disadvantages that make life hard for content creators.

This is why I would like to make my points for VR 180° 3D

  • VR 180° 3D gives you more freedom creating the video, you can “hide” your crew, lighting equipment and everything else that is not supposed to be seen behind the camera. Practically impossible with a 360° camera.
  • VR 180° 3D is a much better user experience while watching the video. He/She can lean back and become immersed in the story and by simply moving the head see everything that is happening. No more rotating on your chair while having the feeling that you are missing something.
  • VR 180° 3D is great for immersion, you can pull the user into the story because if somebody is looking at him/her, they know it’s them who is meant, not eventually somebody behind them.
  • VR 180° 3D helps you saving bandwidth by not having to encode 50% of the video that the user will not see at any time anyways. Rather invest your bandwidth in higher picture quality.
  • VR 180° 3D – simply also because Google will be pushing it in 2018. There are several consumer cameras for this format on their way to under the Christmas trees and with this also the user acceptance and demand for this format will grow.