Isle of Dogs: The Complete Behind The Scenes VR Experience

What do you get when you combine the 360-degree experience with the process of stop motion animation? An incredible insight into one of the most anticipated movies of the year: Isle of Dogs.

This promotional featurette was published by FoxSearchlight, the production studio’s YouTube account for Isle of Dogs. In the 5-and-a-half-minute video with we’re instantly transported to the setting for the movie. Looking in one direction, we see a dog voiced by a famous actor from the actor’s point of view, using the animated dog as a vehicle to talk about their character and its relationship to the movie. As you look around the room, you notice you’re not actually in “Trash Island,” the setting for the movie, but the studio where they create this dirty dog world. As the dog is speaking, the animators are seen on a monitor moving the puppet at hyper-speed to match the movement of the dog.

The video begins with Bryan Cranston’s character, Chief. There is a subtitle with Cranston’s name with his character’s name below in smaller print, signaling to the viewer that this is the actor talking and not the character. He explains why his character is stationed on his island and general character traits. This goes on for several other actors in different settings for the movie including Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Scarlett Johansson. This video is less of a narrative structure, and more of a behind the scenes documentary with a twist: Using the actors describe their character, as they’re in their characters body. We see them truly embody their characters, speaking emotionally about them as if they’re real people (dogs), while being thoughtful and sympathetic to the relationship they have to the story.

The premise for this featurette is great. Not only do we see a glimpse of the animation of the dogs and the beautifully built setting, but we see behind the scenes of Trash Island and the people that are creating these creatures on the fly. We hear familiar voices playing new roles, and unfamiliar animators moving quickly to see how much work goes into just a 5-minute video. Simply put, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a great way to promote a movie that is already going to be pushing the limit for the future of technology (modern stop-motion animation), and combining it with another technological advancement being VR.

The use of virtual reality in this video is extraordinary. We’re first in a pitch-black atmosphere with the Isle of Dogs logo and title “Behind the Scenes (In Virtual Reality)” at the bottom. When that disappears we then see the dog. The first thing I noticed when turning my head away from the talking dog is its voice becoming muffled and distant the more I looked in the other direction. Then when I moved my head back towards the dog I could hear the actor’s voice clearly again. It’s details like this one that really enhance the virtual reality experience and makes the viewer feel like they’re in another world.

This featurette made me more excited to see the movie than I already was, and with 350,000 views at the time of me viewing it I’m sure a lot of other people are as well. I got to see the characters in their respected setting, while having their connected voice describe them. It was just enough to get a taste of the movie without giving much of it away. I love seeing what goes on behind the scenes of movies, and the use of virtual reality was a perfect way to combine that with a glimpse of what the characters are going to be like.

The Virtual Reality Church

D.J Soto (pictured below), a former megachurch pastor, had the vision for a church one day that would surpass the limitations of a physical church building. You can access this Church on a free virtual reality social networking site called AltspaceVR. This is one of the first experiences of its kind for the church world and has many interesting aspects and ideas. This idea has the ability to reach people who would not necessarily come to church otherwise. People are interested in this innovative experience and want to learn more about it.

Not only is this a virtual church, but it also creates a virtual application for reading the Bible itself. This moves the paper version of the Bible to an immersive adventure of reading scripture. You can go to a specific verse and have your virtual reality set to take you to the exact place that these verse were once intended to be read in. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for people who want to truly understand the context and history of biblical times.

Both of these experiences create a judgment free zone where people can feel welcome and show up in whatever form they want. In virtual reality you get to create your own character which allows people to show their personalities in whatever way they want or in whatever form they feel the most themselves. “People feel comfortable opening up in that environment,” Soto says on Megyn Kelly TODAY. In virtual reality, there is no room for judgmental stares, so it creates a space that people would want to show up too. This space also allows for a certain level of vulnerability.

This vulnerability could be groundbreaking for lots of people who feel like outsiders. The comfort provided through virtual reality can help with people overcome mental health issues and other intense realities. Often times outsides feel like they cannot find a good outlet to talk about their problems and end up surprising them and not healing from them. The Virtual Reality Church would aim to eliminate this dividing wall.

I personally do not know if I would want to go to a virtual reality church just because I think there is still immense value in going out of your comfort zone. I also think that it is still very important to connect with real life people in a real life place. I can totally see where this new idea could reach a generation that’s currently obsessed with technology, but should we be moving past that notion or leaning more into it to connect with people? Change and advancement will never stop in society, but that does not mean our core values and main interactions need to change as well. In the end, we are all still human and need other humans to do real life with.

For more information on the Virtual Reality Church you can check out this article: https://www.wired.com/story/virtual-reality-church/ 

or

Check out D.J Soto’s YouTube channel and see what he has to say about his idea.

 

Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One is a combination of Tron Legacy and Spy Kids Three. Based on a real book, Director Steven Spielberg took the story up a notch with spectacle film work, nostalgic references and just a great story.

This movie is set in the near future, 2045 in Columbus, OH where one kid who enjoys playing video games is sent on a mission to become the next CEO of the company. But the company didn’t exist physically, just virtually. Yes, to access the escape from the outside world you had to put that VR set and go nuts in a make-believe world. But it was up to Wade “Parzival” Watts to save the “Oasis” from being taken over from a big company and destroy the fun concept of the virtual world.

Ready Player One brought everyone together as the references showed what someone cares about from their child into one movie. The only thing I came out of this movie is the realization that this might be in our world around this time period.

One thing this movie did right was how they predicted what the future could be. It didn’t go overboard but something but predicted something that can come true. With VR headsets coming into the world of gaming and experiencing technology, this movie showed where this technology can be taken to. In this sense, I compare it to “1984” but not as cruel.

https://www.geekwire.com/2018/5-tech-twists-ready-player-one/

For example, in this picture, you can Wade’s suit that allows him to feel any touch made in the game. Here’s a shocker, that exists! Suits like these are really expensive. Knowing you can get pressure and possibly punished physically for something you did in-game is the jaw-dropping effect this movie had.

Another thing that this movie got right is how VR is going to change everything in video games and in life as we know it. People are going to be able to go anywhere with just a headset and some decent internet connection. That’s all it takes, VR is the future and we are just getting started.

This tweet sums it all up. VR is coming to the front-runner in technology. It will give anyone a chance.

As you see the technology come from a mind to now a movie screen and seeing it reflected in a use is remarkable. However, this movie served as a nostalgic place for anyone who gets the reference.

Obviously being from Spielberg himself, we saw his movies such as the “Back to the Future” DeLorean as Wade is spotted driving the car in a race at the beginning of the film. But many 80’s references were made in the movie such as “The Shining.” After talking to people about the movie, their favorite scene has something to do with the movie. Watch it yourself.

Overall, the movie is a spectacle to see. From future technology and oversees of just filmmaking and telling stories would give anyone from any audience a good time.

Saturnz Barz: In Comparison

Saturnz Barz is the first official single from the Gorillaz off their 2017 album Humanz.  With this they released two music videos.  One is a traditional, 16:9 animation.  The other is a VR video.  With over 11 million views on the VR video, it ranks as one of the most watched VR music videos on YouTube.  Both the traditional and VR videos tell the same narrative of the band visiting a ghost house.  The adaptation of the traditional video into a VR context is an interesting one and there are a few things they did well, and some that were done poorly.

During the first half of the intro to the music video, the audience is placed within a train car with the traditional Saturnz Barz music video playing on a phone in front of them.  This scene helps to establish where center is for the audience so that they have enough time to orient themselves before the important part of the video begins.  After this the audience is placed within the ghost house with the band as they explore.  In the traditional video, there are plenty of transitions during this section where the camera moves to pull the characters into frame.

In the VR video, however, the character’s location is centered in the shot, allowing the user to immediately find them.  In the traditional video there is this transition when the music begins where Noodle places a record on a turntable, it and the camera spin around, and become a cake that 2D is looking to eat.

Thankfully, this spinning transition was cut from the VR video and replaced with the record flashing and becoming the cake.  Throughout the video, there is a lot of interesting movement of the characters that forces the audience to follow them around.  In the penultimate scene, the audience follows the character Murdoc around as they orbit Saturn and float around the audience.  In the final scene of the VR video, the audience is immediately cut into the same setting as the intro.  This allows the audience to re-orient themselves to center when the penultimate scene ends with the audience facing to their right.

This video is not perfect however.  Aside from simulating the direction that the camera is pointing in the traditional video, there isn’t much reason to look around in this video.  Some of the scenes orbiting Saturn have something happening on the opposite side from the focal point, but they’re not that important.  A fair amount of the scenes have the audience looking to their side about 90 degrees, which can be uncomfortable.  The orbiting Saturn scenes can be incredibly disorienting.  There’s a whole lot of movement in these scenes and a whole lot of movement the audience themselves would take part in to follow the characters.  One of the Saturn scenes has the character Murdoc fly all the way behind and around the audience which can force them to whip their head around to see where he actually went if they are seated.  These issues of movement come from a lot of the scenes having the same blocking as the scenes in the traditional video.  Murdoc makes the same movement in the traditional video.

 

Through it all, this is still an extremely well thought out video.  The attention to detail on what can make an appropriate transition for the audience between scenes is incredibly impressive.  While there are issues, most of the issues present in the video couldn’t be resolved without completely overhauling the animation by recreating the scenes from the ground up.  Maybe they wanted the Saturn scenes to be disorienting.  It has a very strange effect and Gorillaz isn’t known for attempting to be normal.

The Source, by Charity: Water

1 in 10 people lack access to clean water. Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Since their inception, they’ve funded 24,537 water projects for 7 million people around the world. Their documentary ‘The Source’ accounts the life of 13-year-old Selam of Ethiopia who spends every day trying to balance retrieving water for her family and attending school.

The intended audience were the donors, foundations and sponsors that cover the operating costs of the entire company. This ensures that 100% of public donations are used towards the water projects themselves.

The story used a ton of emotional appeal. Selam is a 13-year-old who has to help her family survive. Her mother died when she was 12, she has two siblings to take care of, and she also must attend school with the hopes of a brighter future. A future where her younger siblings do not have to decide between survival and school. The story documents the dirty, leach infested pond where she has no choice but to fetch water. The turning point is when they are provided with clean water and a well that is so close she can see it from her house. She no longer has to be late or miss school, her time is now her own. She can study to be a nurse.

The story was largely driven by her and her experiences. Like many other young girls in third world countries, her family’s survival is top priority. It was a unique point of view that included a beginning, middle and end. In the beginning, she was forced to fetch dirty water, in the middle her father informed her of a team coming to provide access to water (although they have been told the same thing many times before), in the end they got the water, and she is receiving the education she so desperately needs.

This story was appropriate for VR and I think especially important for the donors and future donors to this organization. Documentaries do well in VR because we know very little about the surroundings and actual experiences in third world countries.

As I was watching there were a few minor things that bothered me within the story, and with VR as a whole. Within the story, I felt like I wanted different angles. I wanted the angles to be more largely from the eyes of Selam. However, I also felt like there were sometimes obstacles in the way of the camera. As for VR, the medium, I would like there to be more of a walking effect. Instead of spinning in circles to look at everything, I want to have that feeling as I walk. If that makes any sense at all.