Filmmakers are turning to VR to create new cinematic experiences, changing the ways audiences relate to onscreen action. As a tool, VR not only allows for full immersion, it also opens the door to interactive films that give viewers control over the video's timing as well as where to move and look in a 360-degree frame. However, these advancements in entertainment come with complex technical and creative challenges, so the number of interactive VR narrative films is still quite small.
These barriers to entry did not stop filmmaker Celine Tien and her creative team, which includes CalArts alumna Narae Kim (Theater MFA 17), from creating one of the world's first immersive VR hybrid, live-action film experiences. Titled Pippa's Pan 盼, the VR film is a love story about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's Disease who tries to reconnect with her husband in a surreal forest filled with memories of their relationship. Each viewer becomes immersed in the forest and actively engages with objects in the spatial environment that open and reveal significant moments from Pippa's past.
The impressive combination of experimental techniques used to produce the VR film include animation, world building, motion-capture, 3D spatial audio and light field technology. Tien, the filmmaker behind Pippa's Pan 盼, started making the VR film for her senior thesis project at Yale University, and the work has already gotten good notices. An early in-progress version of the film won third place at the AT&T VR/AR Challenge in January, and it was included as a demo at the AT&T Developer's Summit and CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
Most recently, Pippa's Pan 盼 (in final form) was showcased at the 2017 Festival de Cannes in the NEXT VR Exhibition at Le Marchè du Film. The exhibition, which took place from May 17-21, featured VR film screenings and conferences. Pippa's Pan 盼 was presented at the festival all day on May 18.
Kim, the art director and associate producer of Pippa's Pan 盼, is a multidisciplinary artist who has directed, designed and produced a number of prize-winning short films in VR and animation. Saving CalArtians the cost of traveling to France to experience the work, Kim recently included the immersive VR film as part of CalArts' 2017 Digital Arts Expo earlier this month.
Watch an excerpt from Pippa's Pan 盼 below.