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Lights, Camera, Game Engine?

Using VR tech, I think I want to create a short film performance instead of my usual output of still images. I have a BTEC in Media moving image (ok, I was 16 and did 18 months of it before leaving due to health reasons), so I'm aware of the basic work flow of making a short film. It's been longer than I care to admit since then, so I wanted to refresh my memory on the process and also think about what considerations may be different when creating for a HMD over a flat screen.


On LinkedIn I found a video course by Emmanuel Henri, "Introduction to VR Filmmaking". There were principles that were relatively the same as I remembered them. Pre-production considerations consisted of story outline (what I would call a treatment), scripts and storyboards. Story boards have typically been used to plan and organise shot sequence, but in VR they can also be used to design environments, characters and props. These designs are then used to produce 3D assets, textures and lighting in game engines.


Game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine have been used in recent productions like Disney's Mandalorian and live-action Lion King to create believable man made environments and characters. I had not considered using a game engine. I had considered that creating a movie and playing it on a headset was going to be the same as creating for a flat screen, with an extra step added where I would just upload the video file to the HMD.


What I've learned from Henri's video is that I'm likely going to have to use a game engine to build in the elements from the performance (like audio/video/space) to create an immersive experience. This means I'm going to have to learn how to use a game engine. No pressure. I'm thinking that I'm not going to be able to create a "game" type experience, but perhaps its within my time frame to be able to create a basic app that will bring these elements together. Perhaps just as a "play" button that begins the experience. We'll see.


Beyond the considerations for creating film for virtual reality, Henri had some amazing notes on creating an engaging story.


Start with basic notes on your story and then edit to a final draft. Use final draft 11 software to create a script. Storyboard your script to plan shots and guide production. Storyboards also help you fix visual concepts for characters and environments.


A story should be in 3 acts. In act 1 you should learn about the character and foreshadow last act. The second act should move on from an event in the first act that moves you in to the second act, where the character deals with the event. This should feature many emotional changes and be 40-60% of the film. The third/final act should be initiated by a desperate event, where the character is forced to change/grow and resolve the situation.


I am in the process of creating a script. I can't see imagine much dialogue going in the script, but unlike my usual work, I feel this needs a timeline/structure. At some point I will post my free-writing exercise on the experience I want to represent in VR.




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