The video above is a trailer for Zero Point, an upcoming documentary about virtual reality directed by Oscar nominee Danfung Dennis. The neat thing about the film is that it’s going to be a virtual reality experience itself — because it’s being released as a movie for Oculus Rift, the amazing, epoch-shifting headset designed for truly immersive 3D games.
Dennis’s startup, Condition One, is shooting live action using a proprietary rig involving cameras which capture 360 degrees of action. Then the company stitches the footage together into a version which lets Rift users see everything which the cameras saw.
I got a sneak peek at a few minutes of Zero Point using the developer version of the Oculus Rift headset, the only version which has been released so far. As with games, the 1280-by-800 display, so close to your eyeballs. makes everything look blocky; live action reminded me of the display on an old Sony Watchman pocket TV with a bad LCD screen. Dennis told me that Zero Point looks crisper on the higher-resolution Rift headset which is in the works for commercial release.
Pixels aside, when I looked all around me, the effect of being plunked into another reality — including a training mission at Camp Pendleton and the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center during the E3 show — was remarkable. (It’s a little like Disneyland’s Circle-Vision 360, but much more seductive, in part because you don’t have to share the simulated reality with anybody else.)
What I saw was just a teaser, but I can’t imagine seeing it and not being intrigued by the storytelling possibilities of virtual-reality filmmaking, from documentaries such as Zero Point to horror movies which let you spin around to spot bad guys before the people on-screen know they’re in trouble. It would be like a surround-sound system such as Dolby Atmos for the eyes.
The Condition One has an interactive version of the trailer which lets you use your mouse to wiggle around the viewing angle a bit. Trust me, though: It’s about .01 percent as cool as the finished movie will be when viewed using Oculus Rift.