Virtual reality, an unlimited range of possibilities

A professional workshop on virtual reality took place on Wednesday morning. In the driver’s seat: Alex Lee. The program: how has virtual reality impacted the film industry? How to do VR? How to produce it? Tomorrow, how do you make money in this sector?

Tomorrow is already here. “Every day brings innovations in the high-tech sector. We must adapt to our times, be abreast of novelties, and remain up-to-date to take advantage of all the opportunities,” says Alex Lee, a specialist in virtual reality (VR). For him, this sector is surging and French Polynesia, and thus the Polynesians have a vested interest in jumping on the bandwagon. For the homeland is a playing field, offering all the ingredients necessary to offer achievements in VR that the rest of the world is looking for. “In the Pacific in general and particularly in French Polynesia, there are many things to be shared that people elsewhere are not even aware of.”

Necessary training

On this Wednesday morning, Benoît Tarahu, producer and filmmaker, faces Alex Lee. “The possibility of facilitating shoots by using this new technology interests me. Today we need cameras, audio recording equipment and lighting… If I understand correctly, shooting in VR can be done with one camera. That is why I have enrolled.” Following four hours of a rich exchange, Benoît Tarahu has his answer: “In fact, one camera is all that is necessary, but it must be mastered. I discovered that some of them have 24 lenses! Training is required.”

In addition to obtaining answers, the workshop participants not only discovered a sector, they also entered a new world. They were able to test the VR masks supplied by Alex Lee. “It is a very strange sensation. You are completely disconnected from reality.”

Audiovisual upheaval

Virtual reality is profoundly changing the audiovisual sector. “An example is the Sundance Film Festival in the United States which is an important film market. Buyers were grabbing up exclusive feature film rights, up until the last edition. This year, for the first time two virtual reality films generated the biggest figures. In particular, a 15-minute documentary on the revival of Sufism, “ZIKR: A Sufi Revival,” sold for more that 10 million dollars.”

Alex Lee guarantees that the demand exists and will continue to grow. “Everyone wants VR film content, we have the technology, but lack the films. All the big broadcasting chains, such as the BBC, CNN, now have VR departments. We see virtual reality everywhere, in galleries, museums, and governments are also potential clients.”

But filmmakers have to be interested. “Filming in VR has its own codes and constraints, it is directed at an audience who goes through a solitary experience, so we must question the type of experience we want to propose and give the spectator the necessary keys to make the story coherent, for he sees everything as if he were emerged in it. He must be guided for example with particular sounds to help direct his field of vision…” The technology exists, evolves daily, is better controlled, and is becoming more accessible. “Let’s look at what must be done to ensure that screenwriting techniques follow at the same pace.”

As he leaves the workshop, Benoît Tarahu is convinced. “However, in addition to training, you need the money to invest. It is expensive.”

FIFO / Delphine Barrais