It’s hard to accurately demo a piece of virtual reality filmmaking in a clip fit for web viewing, but this exclusive attempt, from Stéphane Barbato’s Cockatoo Spritz, does its best to show off a new project from Star VR, who are in Cannes premiering the full short at the Majestic. Parent company Starbreeze Studios, a Stockholm-based videogames company behind impressive titles like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, have produced the short to show off their prototype VR headset, which uses two screens rather than one to realize a VR environment with a 210-degree field of view.
The live-action short plays out as a series of scenes in a cabaret club, before culminating in an impressive slo-mo finale as props and people fly around in front of the stationary viewer. By turning your head, you tune in and out of conversations, confrontations and even a magic show. Michael Hjorth, Starbreeze’s chairman, tells me this is just a taste of what VR can do. He was also demoing a Walking Dead VR experience that was more interactive – strapped to a wheelchair with a shotgun in your hand, you set off a zombie horde – but Cockatoo Spritz was designed to explore the possibilities of VR storytelling where the viewer is more passive than the gaming-led movement has been to date. Performance artists, he said, would particularly vibe with the possibilities of the tech.
Given Cannes this year is being led by discussion about the future of distribution and exhibition – as disruptors like Netflix, Amazon and Screening Room become ever more present – it seems appropriate that VR is in the mix. Hjorth thinks it’s a tech that might find a home at cinemas: rather than invest in expensive equipment at home, as competitors Oculus and HTC Vive are estimating, audiences will prefer to make virtual reality a destination experience, he speculates. The company has also been working on a VR experience for John Wick, which wasn’t ready in time for a Cannes demo.