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Virtual Reality Shoots Demand a New Set of Tricks // April 2017
This story first appeared in the April 25, 2017 issue of Variety. Also available online here, just a few bullet points below.
For example, some years ago, when digital cameras came to dominate filmmaking, cinematographers began hiring digital-imaging technicians, or DITs, to handle image-quality control and color correction directly on the set.
And now, with the arrival of virtual-reality entertainment, a new job category has emerged — VR operator — to help manage camera systems on such productions.
The challenges of transitioning from traditional film and TV to VR are obvious. A single camera is enough to capture images for a movie or show, but VR content aims to replicate a realistic 360-degree environment. And the movements of a headset-wearing viewer control the point of view from which that environment is seen.....
Many 360-degree shoots use as many as five camera rigs, compounding the file-management challenges. On the VRLA panel Shooting VR for Post, cinematographer Eve Cohen said that, to her, the various VR camera rigs are akin to the different lenses she uses on a traditional production, “and I’m not going to show up on a shoot with one kind of lens.”
VR operators manage these systems. “To me, it’s like having somebody in charge of that camera — not necessarily from a creative standpoint, but with a technical understanding,” Cohen said.....
The technology is tricky, to be sure. But it’s clear that it takes a VR operator to help figure it out.
B&H Women of INFLUENCE // April 2017
Interviewed in late fall 2016, Eve's episode aired April 2017, one of 10 in B&H Photo's series "Women of Influence." Each episode is available on the B&H website here. The other incredible women photographers and cinematographers Cristina Mittermeier, Barbara Davidson, Brooke Shaden, Elsa Garrison, Kirsten Johnson, Sandy Puc, Vivienne Gucwa, Katrin Eismann, and Polly Morgan.
This series is an inspirational look at the talent, drive, and perseverance that forged some remarkable photographic and filmmaking careers.
Ten leading women explore their works, the stories of how each built careers, overcame challenges, and developed signature styles.
This series is brought to you by B&H, with the generous support of Canon and Sony.
Guest speaker part of the International Cinematographers Guild panel at VRLA 2017 "Shooting VR for Post" ICG Co-panelists: Dane Brehm, Andrew Shulkind, Evan Pesses and Andrew Cochrane. Moderated by Michael Chambliss.
Shooting VR for Post [Association with International Cinematographers Guild (ICG)]
In live VR production, “fixing it in post” takes on a whole new dimension, impacting both the creative and technical decisions made on set. How does the cinematographer collaborate with the director to design shots and block action with the strengths and drawbacks of stitching algorithms in mind? How does the cinematographer develop the look and manage color (with the DIT) in the absence of established color pipelines? What are some of the tips and tricks for shooting live action that will blend as easily as possible with 360-degree CG? What is the most effective way to design VR workflows from set to post? Hear from leading VR filmmakers about how they combine innovation and years of experience to shoot the highest quality live action VR footage possible with today’s technology.
NEW YORKER // april 2016
APRIL 25, 2016. ART AND TECH.
STUDIO 360: The Pioneers Who Are Making The First Virtual Reality Narratives. By Andrew Marantz.
One afternoon, at the Wevr office on Indiana Avenue, three young filmmakers—Blessing Yen, James Kaelan, and Eve M. Cohen—arrived for a preproduction meeting about a V.R. experience they were making, called “Memory Slave.” Wevr was providing equipment, staff, and technical support in exchange for the exclusive right to show the experience on its platform, Transport, which was released earlier this month. One of Wevr’s long-term goals is to be a V.R. equivalent of Netflix or Hulu—both a producer of original V.R. experiences and a destination for watching such content.
Yen and Kaelan, who are dating, have collaborated on many projects, and Cohen often serves as their cinematographer. “It’s a very different job in V.R.,” Cohen told me. “You position the camera, you do light direction, and then you disappear.” The three had worked together on a V.R. short called “The Visitor,” an existentialist piece in which two characters discuss the subconscious. Hoping to limit viewers’ options and orient them toward the action, Cohen had placed the camera rig in the corner of a large room. The rig was at a reasonable distance for an establishing shot, but, without the option of intercutting closeups, it was too far away for viewers to read the actors’ expressions.
The next morning, Cohen and Galle set up the camera rig in the theatre’s balcony while Kaelan and Yen worked on blocking.
“Wait,” Yen said. “If Caitlin sits here—actually, never mind.”
“What?” Kaelan said.
“I was, like, ‘She’ll be off center.’ But, duh, the viewer can just move their head.”
Kaelan laughed. FitzGerald sat on a plush red seat in the front row of the balcony, and Cohen readied the cameras for a test shoot. “Everyone clear the set, please,” Kaelan said. Then he ducked down between seat rows. “I want to hear their performance, and this is the only way without being in the shot,” he explained. Lying on his back, he yelled, “Action!”
They did a take. Afterward, FitzGerald said, “It feels weird, performing for just this robot thing. It’s less intrusive, in a way, but it’s the only time I’ve ever acted without being able to see any other human beings. I never thought about it, but I guess I’m always performing for an audience, or a crew, or someone.”
Batt said, “We’ll do a quick, dirty stitch, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.” Cohen removed a memory card from each GoPro—delicate work involving tweezers—and a Wevr engineer uploaded the footage to a Samsung Gear. Yen, standing in the balcony, put on a headset. “Whoa, this theatre looks amazing!” she said. “In this thing, I mean.”
“Can I?” FitzGerald said. “I don’t usually watch myself, but—” She put on the headset and gasped.
“Everyone does that the first time,” Batt said.
“Oh, guys, is this the future?” FitzGerald said.
“It’s certainly a future,” Batt said.
“Let’s go again,” Kaelan said. Everyone cleared out, and he lay down on the floor. This time, I stayed, lying foot to foot with him. I looked up at the ornate cupola on the ceiling, quieted my breathing, and listened. “Action!” Kaelan said.
Kelleher entered from the rear of the balcony, walking slowly toward FitzGerald. He began speaking about the V.R. technology that the fictional company was planning to unleash on the world. “It’s going to be beautiful, it’s going to be hideous,” Kelleher said. “It’s going to bring joy and sorrow and lust and pain and wonder and pleasure. And it’s a fucking miracle!”
The theatre’s house lights went down, and a spotlight was trained on FitzGerald’s face as her character practiced her impending speech. “For all of human history, art, music, storytelling, religion—those have been our modes for communicating the incommunicable,” she said. “But what if there were a way to know not an abstract version of my experience but what I’m actually feeling?” She looked directly into the camera. “Under your seats is a headset that will change the very nature of what it means to be human. Under your seats is the end of your individuality. Put it on and you’ll never want to take it off. Good luck.”