VIRTUAL REALITY FILMMAKING (Part 2): Getting Started for $25


Virtual Reality Filmmaking as a Movie Business, as a Film Career, as a Visual Genre and as a Storytelling Art Form, with the release last week of Oculus Rift headset ($599) is the first step of a new industry/genre in storytelling however Google or Samsung already has, although not as good, there are more than adequate start-up headsets for only $5-$50.

(My next 4-5 Blogs on Virtual Reality will be thanks to aggregation by an English Film Co-op and alternative Film Program, based in London, called Raindance (… If you’re UK based, even Western England based you should absolutely check them out.)

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Get started in VR.

First of all, you need to understand what makes the technology so compelling. It’s the ultimate mix between gaming and filmmaking  Last year, the Reese Witherspoon-starrer Wild got its companion VR-short called Wild – The Experience. It was commissioned by Fox Searchlight as an experiment. Never mind that this was a promotional gimmick: it worked.

A few studios have started working on VR as a way to “enhance human experience”, and Fox promised several similar projects in the coming years. These have been designed for Samsung and Oculus devices, which are not really accessible for your average indie filmmaker. (I’m assuming you’re reading this with your “I was a starving filmmaker before I learned to think out-of-the-box & it was cool”.)

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(Reese Witherspoon in “WILD”, a VR short shot for Samsung and Oculus headsets)


It should be noted that, as this is a rudimentary tool, you should not use it with a strap. It may cause dizziness, nausea or just your average queasiness. Everyone has a different threshold in their experience of motion sickness. A poorly built app on Cardboard can make people ill quickly, and so can a better-built app on the Oculus. Depending on your use -if you’re a professional using VR to demo a new product, for instance- be extra careful with this factor when you show your work, and take all the necessary precautions beforehand.

(Footnote: This disclaimer was not written by me and came with the original post and I’m still not sure if I understand it. I understand the dizziness factor but I don’t comprehend the “Depending on your use” quote.)

“Depending on your use” or not the phrase still is “If it ain’t on the page it ain’t on stage”… Script – Script – Script.

Bottom-Line: Storytelling

Read-on and follow my next 3-4 VR Blogs you’ll receive a VR nuts-n-bolts foundation. However, by the time that you take action it will be to late to “Be The First”… Thus, you will have to “Be The Best”… And to “Be The Best” you must always, in the entertainment storytelling world, be the best storyteller.


Now, think what are the traits of a great VR Screenplay.

Remember, the viewer wearing his or her headset can always leave the central them (2-3 actors talking) and zoom to the left or right and start listening to the secondary actors, the extras, who now might be the sub-plots, or Segway into becoming the primary plot…. the zoom again to the left or right to another actor or group of actors possibly responding to the first plot, or the sub-plot that is now the primary plot… OMG this is getting complicated.

Yep, now you got it. But you say you’re creative. The technology is here (read-on) but the key is going to success in the narrative storytelling medium, is always going to be the script.

Now think VR Script and “if it ain’t on the page… it ain’t on the stage”.

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Get your gear together: So What’s $25 For?

Now you need to see what’s been done, but you need to be equipped. That starts with the headset and 5 Bucks starts you with “cardboard”…. assuming you have a Samsung.

The Google‘s cardboard are a no-brainer. This cardboard kit ($24.95) is the way to go. You can go for more elaborate ones, of course, which you’ll find on Google’s Cardboard page.


VRCamera5      VRCamera5

And if you’re feeling super art-and-craftsy, you can build your own from scratch with this DIY tutorial. They’re usually the cheaper and more user-friendly headsets to experience VR.

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Samsung have released their virtual reality gear, which is more elaborate than Google’s Cardboard, and looks more professional as well. The experience will be quite similar, except it has a headband, so you can really immerse yourself without having to hold the device to your eyes. Problem: it’s only compatible with Samsung’s Note 4 smartphone, just under $200.

Professional optical devices maker Zeiss have also boarded the VR train. They have created the Zeiss VR One, which is compatible with every smartphone up to 6 inches that displays VR content, or 3D, side-by-side content on the screen. Explore the possibilities on their dedicated Tumblr. It’s €130 in Europe.

You’ve got an entire list of affordable headsets here. And a more thorough list here, with other price ranges.


Then explore the Cardboard app (iOS & Android). You can also use Vrse, which has been hailed as a very apt exploration of the VR medium on Cardboard. I’m pretty sure the fangirling will take over the queasiness if you experiment this live rendition of “Live and Let Die” by Sir Paul in virtual reality.

VRCamera7     VRCamera7     VRCamera7

Now, if you want filmmaking explorations of VR, you can go for Insidious VR or Sisters: A Virtual Reality Ghost Story. Both are slightly creepy, and that suits us fine, as you know we love horror this muchthis much and, of course, this much.

Bear in mind that this is an entirely new medium. Even though it builds upon filmmaking, it’s a radically different and innovative way to tell stories. You can’t think of it as something that’s in the continuity of what you see at the movies or on TV. It’s an entirely new medium, and you’re the one creating a new language.

(For my next couple of Posts I will focus on (A) Startup Gear and (B), most important, Storytelling Tips which, if correct, will become VR Storytelling Secrets… News @ 11)


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Real Facts. Real Knowledge. No-Bull.

Happy Filmmaking,

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