What’s the Best Thing About VR? Knowing Nothing

Rose Colored director Adam Cosco.

Our interview with director Adam Cosco and Vincent Edwards from Invar Studios discusses the film Rose Colored and why making boring VR isn’t fun.

Rose Colored, our latest piece of VR episodic content to come to the Jaunt VR App, is an introspective sci-fi series that poses an interesting question: How does technology alter our perception of reality and how does knowing everything change how we remember certain things in our lives? It’s even more interesting that famed director Adam Cosco decided to shoot this film using immersive technology. We asked Adam and the producer on the project, Vincent Edwards, CCO of Invar Studios, a few questions about where episodic VR is going, some of the sci-fi influences for Rose Colored, and the challenges of immersive filmmaking.

Telling a story in virtual reality cannot be easy, especially something as ambitious as this project. As a filmmaker what are some of those challenges?

Rose Colored producer Vincent Edwards from Invar Studios.

Vincent Edwards: Making sure the viewer knows where to look is always something we think about. I give full credit to Adam for managing this element masterfully. From shot to shot, the edit always lands the viewer in a way that they start by seeing what they should, and then motivating them to turn and follow action in a way that keeps them in sync with the narrative. It’s a new element of stagecraft in film and Adam is on the bleeding edge of getting it right.

Adam Cosco: The biggest issue for me was deciding on the angle you are going to use to capture the story beat. Traditional coverage isn’t applicable when you are shooting in 360. I’ve been choosing one angle that takes us from A to B and then another angle that leads us from B to C. Some films, like Raging Bull or The Cook, The Thief, The Wife, and Her Lover were made this way; they’re almost entirely devoid of coverage. 360 Video encourages you to lock yourself into a choice, which I think has a bunch of pros and cons. On the one hand, it gives more power to the creators, but it simultaneously limits your ability to play with pacing in the edit. If you ask me, I think the biggest pro is that it makes you consider your decisions and forces you to make bold choices.

Time-management is also a huge issue. My team and I will sit down and schedule the shoot down to the minute, but at the end of the day, there are always complications you don’t foresee. Working with first generation cameras means there are unforeseen issues. Making 360 films is not an exact science… yet.

Questioning technology’s impact on human perception was a theme throughout Rose Colored. Was choosing VR as the medium for this story a continuation of this theme?

The Rose Colored crew used several different 360 video cameras, including this helmet-mounted GoPro rig, to film the episodic VR series.

Adam Cosco: I took a page out of the Marshall McLuhan school of thought, in that the medium is the message. Despite that, I see the story as using technology as a metaphor.

I remember getting an email from someone whose relationship with me had eroded. This person described their perception of how we had lost touch. Reading the email, I couldn’t help but think we had different memories of the time we had spent together. I’m pretty sure that was the inciting incident that started me thinking about Rose Colored.

I realized that we already live with flawed perception. We selectively remember things. We eliminate information that could hurt us. We enhance the good things and erase the things that make us feel shame or embarrassment. Our plastic memory makes us editors, crafting personal narratives that preserve our delicate egos.

Our eyes are portals to perception. We have no idea how other people see the world. Up until this point; our subjective reality was all we knew.

Virtual Reality is poised to change that.

Vincent Edwards: Adam and I quickly established a shorthand for iterating story — “more of a Fincher beat”, “Hal 9000 meets Princess Leia hologram” and “totally Gibson” are among many phrases we slung around in search of the right tone. We’re kinda from the same school of filmgeek, so it was an easy collaboration.

What was it like incorporating traditional VFX into a VR piece?

Rose Colored incorporated a traditional green screen and VFX work in VR.

Adam Cosco: I was lucky to be working with some of the only experts in this emerging field. The ability to manipulate CG elements to conform to an equirectangular image is a rare skill set.

Invar was great about setting up a workflow between Digicore in India and me in Los Angeles. Digicore did the majority of the effects. Riley Franklin and a new studio called Warm and Fuzzy worked on some of the most complex shots.

Vincent Edwards: I’d say it was like crawling naked over a parking lot filled with barbed wire and broken glass. All the complexities of laying in the AR elements over camera moves were compounded exponentially by doing it in 360. But the team at Digicore in Pune did a great job executing our ambitious and meticulous notes, and Adam was unwavering in pursuit of the vision you see in the film.

We did some post-production sound work as well that really took the film to the next level. Because of the immersive nature of the project we used 3D spatial audio design and worked with Mixed Immersion in London and their team of feature film experts to really enhance the viewers experience of being in the movie. They are truly pioneers, and great collaborative creative partners.

Any last words on the future of VR and episodic VR content?

Director Adam Cosco on the set of Rose Colored.

Vincent Edwards: Adoption will be the next frontier in the future of episodic VR content. We’ll need to craft film narratives that can be accessed via traditional media as well as immersive ones. By creating content that is easy to like in familiar ways, while simulataneously providing the immersive variants that will allow fans to get “deeper into the movie” we can encourage adoption of the new medium. This will include a variety of levels of immersion — from 360 video to more interactive executions of a franchise that allow for navigation and agency as well.

Adam Cosco: I want to encourage people, and definitely up-and-coming immersive filmmakers, not to be beholden to one way of doing this. VR and 360 video benefit from experimentation, and to me, the only rule is “don’t make boring stuff.” Being rigid and inflexible about the rules of making 360 content is a death sentence. “No one knows anything” has always been a favorite quote in Hollywood, but it has never been truer than when applied to this new medium. I don’t know anything either, but I think we made something that leaves an impression.

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