watchline

04.11.2015 § 2 Comments

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The trailer to the VR game Eve: Valkyrie is genius. Someone on staff recorded a few minutes of their experience playing through the opening sequence game. Watching this trailer, you can feel the distinct energy signature of this person’s experience, reacting to the aleatoric elements of this primarily scripted event. It’s similar to but different from the feeling you get watching handheld footage, sensing the presence and intent of the cameraperson behind the camera (the un-simulate-able subtleties of which explain the technique of placing real-life surfing documentarians into virtual reality to “film” surf scenes of Surf’s Up). Sometimes first-person POV shots are simulated, or sometimes captured with GoPros strapped to actual people’s heads. The critical difference with E:V and VR screencasts in general is that the world is a definitive, limited, and infinitely repeatable experience, but the particular experiences possible to have in it are unlimited: you can’t watch the same VR film twice.

And how best to debut a work of immersive cinema to a group of people in a traditional simultaneous collective experience? It seems to me the best method is for the director, or perhaps a separately specifically talented author, to record the “definitive” or a “suggested” path through the story. Circumventing all of the novel storytelling challenges VR cinema presents – how to get viewers to look where they’re “supposed” to and when, you just do it more-or-less perfectly. This is a great method for trailers / previews, of course, but could also become an art form in itself, is what I mean to say. People may still wish to gather in groups without HMDs between each others bodies, hear each other’s real-life laughter unmediated, and experience a story in the traditional giant-2D-rectangle-on-the-wall style. In the multiple-screens, multi-media, intermedia art and entertainment world we’re moving into otherwise, this makes even more sense. Such 2D versions may come packaged with the 3D version, complementary to them.

This isn’t like a director’s cut, since it’s not a re-organizing in time of existing elements, or addition or deletion of timed elements. It’s always the same total length of time, the same elements, just a differently chosen path of sight through them. And it’s not like a “take” either, since the action inside the world may not even have any variance.

In addition to the authoritative take on a VR cinema experience, sharing of individual fan experiences may become a thing. Either:

  1. broadcasting widely (one may become famous on VR YouTube for having a really good eye for “shooting” VR movies, for honing them down to the most artful or interesting 2D version of themselves),
  2. just sharing with your friends,
  3. or keeping them for your own personal records (think about it: in traditional movies, you can never relive the first time you watched a movie, but in immersive cinema you can in some way! While you can’t know your thoughts, you can infer them from what you chose as important most to watch at that time at each moment throughout it.) You might keep track of various watching experiences over time, too. You may have watched the same piece of VR cinema 5 times, and still only beheld something like 42% of the total visuals to take in.

I propose a word to refer to this 2D projection of a 3D immersive film: the watchline. I considered many other options:

  • playline (meh, too vague)
  • viewline (it’s really more of a viewing line, so this sounds more like a synonym for eyeline which is a mere snapshot in time)
  • experienceline (too vague / related to consciousness, while it should be more about the material recording)
  • screenline (inaccurate)
  • observationline (too long)
  • vantageline (etymology is more about good positioning)
  • frameline (unfortunately this term is already used in film as the boundary between two frames on a film strip)

I chose watchline in part for its resemblance to the physics term “worldline” which describes an objects path through four dimensions, with time as the fourth dimension. This is a very similar idea, except instead of an object lathed out, snaking through time from conception to destruction, we have a framing on the 360 degrees of action lathed out, snaking through the material from its beginning to ending.

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§ 2 Responses to watchline

  • CMLOEGCMLUIN says:

    Update: I understand that Conan O’Brien’s show has a concurrent 360 degree broadcast, and that his traditional 2D stream occasionally cuts to a cross-section of the 360 camera, a cross-section whose (moving) frame is controlled by the show’s director.

  • […] wrote previously about this topic, suggesting the term watchline for an instance of such a recording. What I was seeking beyond this term […]

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