Sundance New Frontier had a solid line-up of VR experiences this year with a number of immersive storytelling innovations including SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime, which takes you on a journey into the center of a black hole. It’s a hero’s journey that provides an embodied experience of the evolution of a star from birth to death with a poetic story written and directed by Eliza McNitt, narrated by Jessica Chastain, and produced by Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures.
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SPHERES made news for being acquired for a 7-figure deal, and it represents a unique collaboration between science and art. There were a number of scientific collaborators including the National Academy of Sciences and physicists who study black holes, and so the VR producers had to come up with creative interpretations of mathematical descriptions of the edges of spacetime that push the frontiers of our scientific knowledge.
I had a chance to sit down with McNitt at Sundance in order to talk about the inspiration for this project, her journey into creative explorations of science, the challenges of depicting gravitational lensing in Unity, what’s known and not known about black holes, how listening to gravitational waves for the first time inspired the sound design, and crafting an embodied hero’s journey story in collaboration with Protozoa Pictures. The acquisition deal by CityLights was secured on Kaleidoscope’s funding platform, and includes this first chapter shown at Sundance as well as two additional chapters yet to be produced, and will be released later this year by Oculus.
Here’s a promo for SPHERES produced by Sundance: