Press Release (ePRNews.com) - LAS VEGAS - Apr 25, 2017 - NAB 2017 – Pushing the boundaries of filmmaking takes nerve, creativity, and an open mind. That’s exactly how Christine T. Berg, an artist, writer and filmmaker, approached “Wonder Buffalo,” a film project that is both a movie and an immersive, virtual reality (VR) experience. In a podcast interview for journalists, Berg, who co-wrote the script with Simon Shterenberg, says the film did not start out as a VR experience.
“It was written to be a short movie,” she says, adding that it had been stymied by a lack of funding. When she happened to run into the ETC@USC’s* Erik Weaver – who would become the executive producer for “Wonder Buffalo” – he suggested the project could get funding if she added VR into the mix. (NOTE: ETC@USC is the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California.)
“I am someone who is excited about new ways of storytelling. He couldn’t even finish his sentence. I was already saying yes—even though I didn’t know anything about VR, other than it was cool.”
In addition to Weaver, producer Drew Diamond (with ETC@USC) joined the team to work on both the film and the VR experience working with Berg to determine how best to deliver her creative vision.
Berg ended up leading a team of seasoned professionals to support the project. In addition to Weaver and Diamond, the Wonder Buffalo VR crew was made up of Brian Frager, Lead Experience Producer at the Technicolor Experience Center; Scott Gershin, Creative Director/Director of The Sound Lab at Technicolor; and Rainer Gombos, CEO, REALTRA VR (http://www.realtra.com/), who provided the photogrammetry technology and expertise. The hologram technology was provided by 8i (https://8i.com/).
The film’s lead character, Ann, is a Thai-American teen struggling with body dysmorphia and an overbearing mother. The “Wonder Buffalo” VR experience used photogrammetry to capture Ann’s bedroom. The characters – Ann and her mother – were captured using photorealistic human hologram technology. The set and acting shots – including the individual character performances – were captured separately, and then brought together using technology from Unity (https://unity3d.com). Berg’s goal was to let the audience step into Ann’s world, and then make choices and interact as the story unfolds and Ann confronts her problems with her mother. The characters eventually disappear and the interactive portion of the VR experience gives users the agency to carry out the rest of the experience through the eyes of Ann.
“The team showed me all the different kinds of VR, all the different kind of headsets, all the different ways that you can participate in this world, and each of them was bringing a different creative challenge or opportunity. Since I was always very interested in playing video games, I started seeing that there was a way that we can make the user of the VR piece become more interactive in a cinematic story, and become part of the story. I started seeing that there was an opportunity in the VR to have the user participate…and that started just feeding me all of the different choices that we could make,” she says.
Among the lessons learned in the making of “Wonder Buffalo” was the benefit of having a script completed before starting.
“There’s a lot of choices that you can make, and sometimes I think that too many choices make you lose what you’re trying to say, or what kind of experience you’re trying to give people. You forget what the story is about,” Berg says. “It really helped that we had a script, that if we were going off-track or if we were doing something that lost the message of the original story, we had something to go back to.”
The VR experience is garnering plenty of attention. The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California awarded Berg and Shterenberg with its 2016 Innovative Technology award for “Wonder Buffalo,” and was featured at SXSW in March 2017.
“Wonder Buffalo” received creative and technological support from the Technicolor Experience Center, the unit within Technicolor that is tasked with developing high-concept content, platforms and technology for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other immersive media applications
The experience will be available at the Technicolor demonstration suite during NAB 2017.
To read the full Q&A or listen to the podcast interview, visit:
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