As spring arrives and the swallows come back to Capistrano, so too is it time to endure another annual low-budget film featuring Nicolas Cage. This time, the crew behind Cage’s latest film The Humanity Bureau (2018) have thrown a 360 camera in the mix in an attempt to generate a VR app that launched on nearly every VR platform prior to the film’s April 6th theatrical release.

While it could have been a run-of-the-mill collection of behind-the-scenes commentary or a rendered scene showing off some of the universe’s 2030-era future tech, the creators went a different route by promising an honest-to-goodness VR film featuring Nic Cage with its own narrative to boot, but what transpired ultimately shaped up to be one of the worst VR tie-ins since Jumanji VR. Not only that, but the producers behind The Humanity Bureau’s low-quality, 15-minute 360 narrative cheesefest are charging you a non-refundable $5 for the honors.

To be fair, there’s a few warning signs here when starting up the free app, which can be downloaded on Gear VR, Cardboard, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (the app is free, but the real content inside isn’t).

image captured by Road to VR

Heading into the free VR trailer portion, you’re given a taste of what’s to come; mediocre acting, bad dialogue, bad lighting, bad positional audio, all of which sums up to be one of the most shameful quality 360 films I’ve seen recently. A lesser sin; none of the menus allow for positional tracking and only give you a gaze cursor to make selections – a decidedly minor quibble for PC VR users. Below is an actual promotional image for the VR experience.

an embarrassingly grainy official image, image courtesy One Touch Distribution

Pushing past these obvious warning signs in an attempt to see for myself what the creators call a “ground breaking virtual reality companion piece,” I encountered all of this and more after inserting my PIN and finalizing the $5 payment. By “the most shameful quality 360 film I’ve seen recently,” I mean there’s zero attempt to remedy or otherwise act-around stitching lines, it suffers incredibly grainy indoor scenes due to poor lighting, no high-dynamic range resulting in poor contrast, and nearly every scene blares a minimal understanding of how to treat the viewer’s point of view. All of this is when downloading (not streaming) the highest quality version of each video, which averaged about 300 MB per episode.

You’ll find yourself strapped to the floorboard of Cage’s shaky, claustrophobic El Camino, a teetering aerial shot from a drone, or to an unlevel surface so the world is slightly off kilter. It all feels like a high school art project, or a first-pass story board that was meant for greater polish, greater cameras, better actors, better optical stabilization, etc.

an actor walking around the camera, and being ‘split’ in the stiching line, image captured by Road to VR

Composed of a total of 7 two-minute episodes, you get a few grainy, barely audible minutes with Nicolas Cage; Cage driving his car, Cage delivering a few tired lines to the film’s antagonist Mr. Evil McEyepatch, and that’s really about it. The rest is a smattering of the film’s other characters acting in what the production studio says is “alternative storylines that co-exist with the feature film.” From what I gather, Mrs. Lovely McLove-interest has a kid, and everyone wants him dead for some reason. See for yourself below (spoiler alert: below is the last two-minute chapter).

Remember, Oculus doesn’t offer refunds on movies, bundles, content purchased as part of a bundle, or content downloaded or purchased inside of apps – meaning your $5 will be gone the moment you put in your PIN regardless of how unhappy you are with the end product. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.

Not all VR film promos are this bad, or as bad as Jumanji VR, but I have to admit that price plays a part in how I perceive what essentially is as an extended commercial for a movie. While $5 isn’t a lot of money, you need to feel like you’re getting something in return for it to be a fair trade, and a measly 15-minute 360 afterthought isn’t a fair trade for any amount of money I’m afraid to say – especially when the content hides behind a free app so you’re ineligible for a refund.

Quick reminder: this wasn’t handed off to some outside company, as the film’s actual writer Dave Schultz and director Rob King created this VR experience—making for a pretty indicative look at what the feature film could have to offer.

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  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    I love Nicolas Cage, he does crazy like no other actors. Some movies he made may be low budget, but they are good. Sad that this VR experience was not made more seriously. Studios need to realize that VR is not a gimmick.

    • Helen

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  • Lucidfeuer

    I find it absolutely crazy how big AAA studios aren’t fucking capable of producing decent, by that I mean correct experiences for their movies. It’s true of Jumanji, the Tomb Raider movie, Blade Runner, this…

    • Foreign Devil

      Blade Runner did a good job and was innovative with their promo. . not sure what you are talking about.

  • NooYawker

    The only good movie VR promo I’ve seen is IT. It’s a 360 film how difficult could it be?

    • Nate Vander Plas

      “It’s a 360 film how difficult could it be?”
      Haha, says someone who has never produced a 360 film! It’s actually incredibly difficult to get perfect, seamless 360 video especially when you have actors crossing stitch lines, moving cameras, etc. That said, it can certainly be done if you shoot it right and have a good post team. They definitely have access to the right resources, so there’s no excuse for them to release this crap.

      • Christian J Murray

        Agree

      • If you had an Orah4i camera you do not have stitching lines. This is already old tech.

        • Nate Vander Plas

          Unfortunately the Orah 4i is not a professional solution. It’s only 4K and 2D. And when you say “no stitching lines” I think you mean in a situation where no moving objects cross a stitch line (read: few real-world shots).

  • I was really disgusted with the low quality. I have a better camera than the one they used. Also, VR programming should have caught my position and repositioned me so that I was facing forward. In Oculus all of the action was behind me. They couldn’t buy an Orah4i? It looks like low res Pixpro judging by the bad stitching. Also the acting was pretty bad. You had Cage standing with his legs spread so far apart I thought he was channeling a super hero and then his Elvis vocal impersonation was painful. He needs to learn to act in 360 which means be more authentic. They can cover up a lot with cuts and closeups. Don’t get me wrong I do love Cage as an actor most of the time.

  • Foreign Devil

    Blade Runner 2049 had a really good VR promo. They actually put effort into it.

  • Christian J Murray

    A clear reason that the trade of VR film making should not be left to the actual filmmakers. They are by nature linear minds. That 360/VR has to be executed by those who foundation the cause and have both the experience and passionate awareness of what a real 360/VR experience should be. I am at first shocked but then reminded that the Hollywood mind is just about making money on these efforts. Someone sold them they could make millions for doing hardly nothing and they believed! Thx for telling me not to buy!

    • I totally agree! We produce AR & VR experiences for the major Hollywood studios, and have worked with Disney, Warner Bros, Fox and Sony. But sadly the studios often engage traditional SFX companies, not realising that expertise in creating pre-rendered CG is quite different to the skills, approach and mindset requiredto truly understand AR/VR. In this case the same is true of traditional filmmaking and 360° video, which IMO have more differences than similarities.

      It could also be down to not having the confidence to say no to the client, which seems to be very evident these days in the rush to get in on the act by the newer VR development houses.

      There are some very well executed movie-based VR experiences out there though. I won’t list ours as that would be too obvious!, but other developers are doing some good stuff too, for instance Blade Runner, which although not perfect, was a rich and engaging experience.

    • namekuseijin

      it’s very clear that flat entertainment (TV, movies, flat games) won’t lead VR

      instead, new indie companies gaining expertise on the new media will become future Activision/Warner/etc…

  • gothicvillas

    Movie made by people who hate VR
    I cant describe it otherwise.

  • WyrdestGeek

    Say– remember when the bottom fell out of the U.S. video game market in the late 80s?

    A large part of the reason why was the big companies at the time decided that quality didn’t matter.

    #WordToTheWise
    #JustSayin


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    • Annie

      Google pays now 97 US dollars/h to complete some jobs working off of a home computer .. Work only for just few hours & spend greater time together with your loved ones … You can catch this super post!on Tuesday I bought a new Subaru Impreza just after making $6876 past month .it’s certainly the best work however you will no longer forgive yourself if you don’t take a look at it.!nh192w:↭↭↭ http://GoogleSiteOnlineBusinessOpportunities/getcash/$97/hourly ♥i♥y♥♥n♥♥n♥i♥u♥♥h♥♥q♥♥e♥r♥l♥♥♥f♥♥♥x♥o♥♥j♥♥p♥♥q♥♥e♥♥t♥f♥♥p♥m♥♥♥l♥♥k♥♥♥q:::::!ag383l:efmpd

    • namekuseijin

      actually, early 80s. Atari died, gaming market rebirth by Nintendo with NES.

  • brandon9271

    A bad VR promo for a film that, based on Cage’s recent track record, will also be bad..? Yeah, didn’t see that coming

  • So it’s the “Shark Boy and Lava girl” of 2018?? I think the industry can absorb the shock this time around. At least Cage isn’t playing Superman (btw – that almost happened once!)

  • Well, once again, it is starting to look like the 3D and VR marketplace is a level playing field. ANYBODY that can figure out how to produce a 3D experience could be on the top of the market!! This is such an exciting time (no offense to Nick Cage or anyone else) but honestly this (3D, VR, AR, MR, ??) is going to do to films, entertainment, training, marketing, education, etc in general what sound did to motion pictures. You have to expect a few bumps in the road. And try to look past the hiccups, this is NEW and everyone needs to work together, learn together and (most of all) be patient. PLUS maybe in this case, encourage people “don’t try this at home” find someone to help you get started! This is an ALSO an advertisement for Experienced Consultants to offer help to content developers at all levels.

  • We started an Academy at Eastern Iowa Community College

    to help do something about training Content Developers for 3D, VR, AR, MR.

    Come to EICC where you can take courses from both our staff and rotating Industry experts to become a professional developer of models, simulations, games, etc. For more detail! Go to

    http://EICC.EDU/EON

  • Well, in an interview Cage has stated that he didn’t like to shoot for VR, he has still to learn how to do that. This article just confirms that :D

    • He so need to learn how to act in VR. His over exaggerated mannerisms show. They work for flat and closeups but not here.

  • Mane Vr

    Vr films should be animated not live action and rendered in a game engine so they can give us different angle to watch the action going on..

    • I disagree. I want 360 movies with live and CGI mixed. Shoot live either on scene or in front of green screen with 360 CG background added in.