Wll a full length 360 degree VR movie ever be possible?

I’m talking big studio, general release, 90 minutes minimum. Not just a game or a travelogue, but something with actors and a plot?

It’s probably possible now, but who would invest in it?

Baby steps: full 3-D 360 degree models of various things already exist, like the Parthenon or the Statue of Liberty. One early ground-breaking effort was a model of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

(Someone also did a sim of an ENIAC computer control room…backed up by a working emulation of the ENIAC computer!)

Next step will be short subjects, like, say, a car crash, or a round in a boxing match.

As time goes by…more and more!

(Just heard on NPR about a 3-D modeling process that can let researchers “read” ancient scrolls which are too fragile actually to be unrolled physically. They can be “unrolled” digitally, and the surfaces made visible. Hot dog!)

There have been some stage plays where the audience would follow individual actors around. A VR version would seem to me to be a natural variation.

We will get there. It’s just a matter of getting writers to script them, and producers to finance them.

You could do a 90 min VR machinima movie with Hollywood actors voicing (and perhaps providing motion capture for) the characters with current tech easily. I’d certainly love to experience something on the level of say Witcher 3’s cutscenes in VR if it had a decent plot.

I got to try a VR headset for the first time just a few days ago, and while it was a lot of fun I don’t think a typical Hollywood feature film would benefit from being converted to this format. A travelogue or nature documentary could be amazing as a 3D environment that the viewer could move around in and explore. But if there’s a plot and actors but no interactive element (which would make it more a game than a movie), allowing the viewer to wander around seems like it would just be a distraction.

A big problem I see with this idea is how do you keep the cameras out of the frame? If the view is 360 degrees, so that the audience member can spin around, he/she is going to see the cameras, lights and the crew.

This presumably wouldn’t be a major issue in a CGI animated movie, and in a live action movie then I guess they could theoretically shoot everything from different angles and patch it together, digitally removing the crew when necessary. But that seems like a LOT of extra trouble and expense for something that I suspect would only detract from a traditional Hollywood movie. In a conventional movie the filmmakers have already shot and edited the scenes in the way they consider to be most appealing/effective, and it seems unlikely that allowing the viewer to wander around would improve things.

There’s a genre of games that’s not far off from this concept already. Titles like Gone Home, Firewatch, or Dear Esther put you in a virtual setting with a traditional narrative that’s revealed by exploring the environment, either through finding notes and journals, or by triggering voice overs or radio messages when you enter new areas. While none of these games offer native VR support, you can play them with a VR set, and it’s only a matter of time until they get ported, or someone makes a similar game specifically for VR. The only thing they’re lacking is actors - there’s never any other people in these games, just a big empty house/island/national park.

Having other characters walking around makes it tricky, because in VR, there’s no guarantee that the audience will be in the right place to hear important dialogue, or be looking in the right direction to see an important reveal. One possible solution to that is to make it part of the experience of the film: deliberately set it up so that you can’t get the entire story in one viewing. That’s a bit brutal for a ninety minute film, though. It would work with something shorter. Say, a twenty minute drama set in a big house during a family reunion, or wedding, or the like. There’s multiple points of drama unfolding at the same time in different places in the house, and the challenge is to go through the scenario multiple times, until you’ve picked up all of the parts of the story to understand what’s going on.

The other option, I suppose, is to take a traditional movie and give the audience some license to roam within each scene. So, if it’s a big courtroom scene, the audience can choose to watch from the jury box, or the judge’s bench, or the defendant’s table, until the scene transitions to the lawyer’s office, where you can move around and look at his bookshelves while he’s having an intense conversation with the DA who’s also his ex-wife. There’s some stuff you could do with that, I suppose - easter eggs you could hide around his office, or stuff that affects the story that you have to actively explore to find, but there’s a point where you start losing the distinction between “movie” and “video game.”

It’s virtual reality, man. They don’t use cameras to make it. It’s all computer generated.

Yeah, the only obstacles are artistic, not technical. In addition to the points that others have mentioned, there are a lot of cinematic techniques that couldn’t be used in an explorable VR environment. When a conventional moviemaker wants to call attention to some detail, for instance, they can zoom in on it. Conversations are easier to follow when you’re showing one person at a time. You can keep the viewer away from the uninteresting parts, and they’ll never miss something sudden like an explosion by looking in the wrong direction (unless, of course, you want them to miss it, in which case you can guarantee that they will). New techniques would have to be invented to replace these.

They could go halfway with a 360-viewable movie in a VR environment, but instead of allowing the viewer to wander around, they could limit it to looking in any direction and zooming in and out.

There was a movie over the summer called Hardcore Henry that was shot from a first-person POV. It’s the kind of thing you might watch wearing a VR headset.

Yeah, and even common moviemaking techniques that could be used in a VR movie, like cutting to a brief scene in another location or a montage sequence, seem like they’d be disorienting. It doesn’t seem like there’d be much point in allowing the viewer to explore the setting unless they were left in the same location for a substantial period of time, and that’s not the way most movies are made. In a lot of movies the settings aren’t even all that interesting, they’re mundane houses, schools, offices, restaurants, etc.

I could see the appeal of having a VR version of an especially beloved setting like the Starship Enterprise or the Shire that fans could explore, but as something separate from the theatrical movie.