3D is Dead…

3D Cinema’s return was billed as the saviour of the Multiplex. People would flock back to their local picture-house and revel in the wonders of modern entertainment technology whilst shelling out more money on admission for the privilege.

Of course, that didn’t quite happen and, although it certainly hasn’t turned out to be quite the white elephant it’s biggest detractors were predicting, no one could argue it gave way to any sort of revolution in movie making or watching.

3D Cinema and its equally beleaguered home equivalent, 3D TV, failed to capture the public’s imagination because the experience wasn’t anything that different. The technology that underpins 3D Cinema is not new, Stereoscopic movies, have been around for decades and its revival was driven primarily by movie studios and TV Manufacturers not the consumer.

…Long Live VR Cinema

Jaunt VR Camera Array, On the set of Black Mass
Jaunt VR Camera Array, On the set of Black Mass

VR Cinema is different, and here’s why; When it’s done right, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced in movies before. It’s the most visceral and immediate way to bring a film makers vision to life in front of the viewer. It opens up new doors for directors and writers that could even give way to completely new genres. This is genuinely new and people are going to love it!

Black Mass is a 10 minute short movie that aims to scare you… a lot. Greg Plotkin, the director behind Paranormal Activity 5, takes the reins with Producers  Matt Winston (son of pioneering effects wiz, Stan Winston), Erich Grey Litoff, David Sanger and John Ales. Partnered with Jaunt VR, a new company dedicated to 3D VR Movie making technology who recently secured $6.8M in VC funding, this is the first made-for-VR horror movie we’re aware of and its production values are impressive. Special Makeup Effects were created by Gary J, Tunnicliffe.

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The film begins with your kidnapping. Then, waking to find yourself in a strange room, you’re confronted with blood soaked floors and walls. At the moment, that’s about all we know – a good thing too, as knowing too much about this project beforehand would likely diminish the surprises that undoubtedly await you.

Whilst he was in LA for E3, Road to VR Executive Editor Ben Lang took time out to get his head into an early version of Black Mass on an Oculus Rift HD Prototype. These are his thoughts on the experience.

The short snippet of Jaunt’s horror experience that I saw opened with me in the middle of some sort of storage room. Haphazardly organized materials and tools were strewn around the area. In front of me was a young girl in a white dress, maybe 10 years old. She was staring right at me; I wasn’t just an observer, I was to be a participant in this experience. “I think you’re bleeding,” she said.

As I went to look down at my body to see what she was talking about, I was interrupted by a sudden crash from somewhere outside of the scene, it gave me, and others I watched experiencing the scene, a nice little jump. She seemed startled and ran past me to the right. I followed her with my gaze as she exited the room behind me. As I turned back to where she had been standing, I was almost certain that before me would be something terrifying—a monster, a murderer—but there was nothing; it caught me off guard. Then, another loud crash with flickering lights, and another jump in my seat.

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I was fully ready to be terrified, but that’s all Jaunt was willing to let me see for now.

Scott Broock, Jaunt’s VP of content, described the full experience as “10 minutes of escalating terror.” I can’t wait to see the whole thing.

The Pitfalls…

Checking the 360 camera’s view remotely.

…for any new technology are of course many and varied and shooting a full, 360 degree live action 3D movie poses some unique technical challenges. Building a set that completely surrounds the action and then finding places to hide microphones in that set are but two. The technical oomph to stitch the images captured by the cluster of cameras found in Jaunt’s latest capture device is, as you can imagine, not insignificant either.

As Scott explains: “We have a very large plate after the stitch from the source, with an extremely high resolution.  We down sample to 1080p for the Rift, with a ton of pixels to spare.  Meaning that we will later re-render and have a very high resolution version of the movie for the DK2.”

Creatively too, VR Cinema needs to take care not to become pigeon-holed as a one-trick wonder, the kind you might pay to see at a theme park. It needs to escape the fate of the 50s B-Movie drive-in experience too, relegated to low-budget sci-fi and horror until it’s demise. But, if companies like Jaunt VR and their pioneering technology can make the job of capturing VR movies possible and Oculus really can achieve its vision of a Billion users with Oculus Rifts, I can’t wait to see what the next generation of directors have us immersed in.

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To say we’re anxious to get our hands on the final movie is, frankly, an understatement. We’ll keep you up to date on project Black Mass and let you know when a release date is announced. Meanwhile, you can find more information on Jaunt VR at their website here.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.