Novel cinematic experiences are being created, and old art is being revisited in new ways. As “true” virtual reality (enabling users to explore digital environments, rather than just observing them) becomes increasingly realistic, and 360-degree capture techniques for filming become more sophisticated, they will likely converge. For now, though, film techniques in virtual reality are still in their infancy. According to Jessica Brillhart, the former principal filmmaker for VR at Google, the technology is all about putting users in the middle of the action - so they become active participants, rather than passive observers following a director’s storyline. Her 360 VR videos have deployed non-linear and non-narrative story-telling, in which creators share their vantage point in a way that teleports viewers into a different space and time. A more participatory and immersive experience has been demonstrated by director Ramiro Lobez Dau, whose animated short film “Henry” was released in 2015. Its users - no longer just viewers - can palpably connect with the main character during moments of extreme emotion. While this Pixar-like VR production earned an Emmy award in the interactive media category, VR has yet to achieve mainstream success. Both virtual and augmented reality are advancing the frontiers of art, by letting users enter new worlds through headsets. Australian artist Lynette Wallworth’s 2016 work “Collisions,” for example, immerses viewers in the world of an indigenous elder in a way not possible with traditional cinematography (the VR film was shown to the Australian Parliament, before it voted in favour of reparations for indigenous people affected by British nuclear tests). Meanwhile a collaborative effort based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “The Enemy,” brings the humanity of combatants from various war zones directly to viewers. VR also enables existing artworks to be revisited in new ways. In 2016, the VR app Bosch VR was developed to enable users to travel through Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” The app WoofbertVR enables users to virtually visit museums, and similar walk-through experiences have been launched by Google in partnership with museums including the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and the Robben Island Museum in Cape Town. While current smartphone-based VR solutions are limited by low resolutions and stationary positions, the technology is expected to improve rapidly.
Immersive Media and Art