“It has been said that art is a tryst; for in the joy of it, maker and beholder meet.”
― Kojiro Tomita
CARDBOARD GOLIATH, a live action Virtual Reality film chronicling the construction of a thirteen foot cardboard sculpture of Ivan Drago (from ROCKY 4) by Los Angeles street artist, Calder Greenwood, experiments with the interplay between the actualization of the artist, the audio-visual information presented by the filmmakers, and the kinetic reaction of the viewer to create a mesmerizing artistic experience and cultivate a “plastic point of view”. We want to push the envelope of engagement of the audience to a physically active viewing experience directed through camera placement and editing choices to encourage an immersive cinematic dance.
This physical interaction, we believe, is a critical technological step for audiences to develop the kinesthetics necessary to enjoy emerging VR, AR, and mixed reality interactive experiences. Johannes Birringer asserted that, “Interactivity, as a mode of technical mediation within a collective infrastructure, points to a new understanding of environments of relations and a relational aesthetics based on interhuman exchange or physical interaction, to a new technological kinesthetics. (Dance, the body and the internet, 2003).
CARDBOARD GOLIATH situates the viewer in the environment of the artist, surrounded by his previous work, and in the midst of creation. The viewer is transported to the artist’s studio, to stand among astonishing pieces (a reproduction of a Japanese subway car; a capsule hotel; a giant tentacle that once emerged from a drainpipe at the Roslyn Hotel; an enormous wolfman’s claw; and a twelve foot Nicholas Cage from CON AIR), while observing the process of creation occurring (seemingly at arm’s length) before their eyes. The presence created by both the viewer and artist at work, interact to instigate a spontaneous performance curated by the filmmakers.
The artist, Calder Greenwood, works in cardboard, a medium widely associated with virtual reality in the mind of the public through the Google Cardboard platform. We were inspired to create this film after being approached to make a Muay Thai boxing virtual reality film for a fight themed art show at Titmouse Studios Gallery in Hollywood. Calder Greenwood was about to embark on the construction of his Ivan Drago sculpture, and we thought the cardboard/virtual reality associations would be interesting to pursue.
We captured Greenwood’s building the piece over the course of five days and nights, as well as the transportation of the large sculpture from the historic Indian Alley (adorned with murals by Shepard Fairey, Wild Life, Free Humanity, and many other celebrated LA artists) where Greenwood lives and works in Downtown Los Angeles, to the gallery space several miles away. The massive sculpture had to be divided in two pieces for delivery, and we invite the viewer to ride along with the bottom half of the sculpture through the palm tree lined streets towards Hollywood.
Dpyx is the filmmaking team of Marcy Boyle and Rachel Holzman. Their first feature film, NOBODY CAN COOL, a graphic novel and film noir influenced thriller released in the USA/Canada in 2013, and UK in February 2016. Our interest in Virtual Reality stems from an aspiration to elicit a visceral response and explore alternative storytelling structures. In 2015, in advance of a screening they hosted of Marguerite Durasʼs film, INDIA SONG, they wrote an article for Indiewire referencing the virtual reality narrative possibilities suggested by Durasʼs hypnotic, enveloping masterpiece. Their first virtual reality film was a profile of two Muay Thai boxers that was shown at “The Art of Fighting” show at Titmouse Gallery in Los Angeles.
CARDBOARD GOLIATH was shown as a work-in-progress at London’s first virtual reality Festival, VRUK, where Marcy participated in the Filmmaker Panel. Marcy was one of a hundred content creators invited to participate in Oculus Launch Pad. Dpyx is currently in the Green Screen Institute accelerator program developing Hot Bit VR, a virtual reality entertainment destination.
As you may know by now, The Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories – better known as FIVARS, focuses on content that demonstrates unique mechanics or approaches, breaking away from the pack to highlight new techniques and experiments.
Though Cream’s series Wild Things is vastly popular on The Travel Channel, the 360 version caught our eye for different reasons. First of all in season 1 episode one – The King Cobra, – it put the camera into the frightening and hypnotic middle point between a trained wrangler and a real live cobra in the wild. The sense of scale that immersive media provided with a vertical field of view, brings to life the sense of time and place with a dangerous animal like a King Cobra on alert in an unprecedented manner.
But this episode also implements infographics to show the strike zone in “real-time,” and display other data in the heat of the moment. This combination of ideas, all available at once in 360, afford the user the opportunity to experience the variety of stimuli as they best see fit.
WILD THINGS is the first of three VR components of an exhilarating travel-adventure series that follows actor and wildlife enthusiast, Dominic Monaghan, (Lord of the Rings / Lost) as he explores the remote corners of the globe in search of some the most badass animals in the world. Travel channel commissioned Cream to shoot VR versions of their series and we did just that. Traveling to the remote island of Bali Cream360 VR team (Tristan and Andrew) shot alongside Cream’s TV crew and covered Dominic rescuing a king cobra. The mission was to illustrate of how VR can be used for documentary in the field.
“Shooting the episode in Indonesia during rainy season was tricky and Cream360 had to build their own custom cameras to meet the challenges,” explain directors Andrew MacDonald and Tristan Cezair. “The result is a camera we could place very near to subjects, such as the mighty king cobra. With this rig we really get very up close and personal with Dominic and these wild animals.”
“In the next two pieces in this series, to be released this year, you will have a one of the world largest spiders, (Nephila (s01e02) golden orb spinner) crawl right over your head(!), and in last installment titled The Kecak Dance (s01e03) Dominic will show you the famous Uluwatu Kecak dance, from the inside of the mandala of singers.”
WILD THINGS “the King Cobra” Makes its VR Festival Debut at FIVARS 2016
Knives is unique in the newly realized immersive video spectrum: Though there are VR projects or 360 immersive videos that claim to be the first VR feature films and other bragging rights, director Adam Cosco has rapidly developed an unlikely feasible grammar for transporting many cinematic conventions into this form of filmography in-the-round. Knives continues the third-person style Adam Cosco pioneered in his VR narrative Intimate Strangers that premiered at FIVARS 2015.
His bold choices were controversial to say the least; audiences sometimes resented having to turn around for a two-shot or missed part of the action, but in our interview with Cosco earlier this year, he discussed how he had made many important discoveries since then, and – rather than shy away from the experiment, leaned into it further.
“The thing that’s interesting about Knives is that it wasn’t written for 360 or VR. My philosophy is that if you approach a script and think about it as a VR film, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot because, in my opinion, it’s a very limiting way to think about stories. Think about the story first, and then think about where to put the 360 camera. That way you’re primarily focusing on directing.”
Modeled after shows like The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, Knives is an allegory about purging the aspects of your personality that aren’t serving you. The surreal drama details a door-to-door knife salesman’s encounter with Kelsey Frye, a housewife on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Unbeknownst to Kelsey, the Salesman has ulterior motives, and soon reveals that Kelsey must kill off the jealous part of herself in order to move on with her life.
“The story is about change,” Cosco confides. “It’s about how you can look back on yourself, sometimes as little as a year ago, and say ‘I don’t know who that person is.’ And – this is something we all do – but it’s almost like we are so ashamed of who we were in the past. Like, if 25 year-old me walked into my apartment, I’d probably want to kill him. And that’s what change is. It’s killing the parts of yourself you don’t like anymore.
“To me the big secret that no one has discovered about this medium yet is that this is an actor’s and director’s medium. It affords actors so much freedom to do the unexpected; it forces them to think of their entire bodies, because there is no hiding when you can see everything.
“Blocking needs to be real, because the human eye has a bullshit detector and knows when human movements are forced. Standard film can hide these things, but there is no hiding it in VR. This forces directors and producers to be on their toes, making every moment count. How can we make this efficient? How can we accomplish this in the shortest amount of time without cutting so much that it’s disorienting or so little that it ends up looking like security camera footage.”
We asked Cosco to expand on this and the challenges of designing shots for 360, especially when using different lenses, closeups, insert shots and special effects, even complex actions sequences.
“We planned the film intensely. My producer and I shot the film I would say about 3 times on the Ricoh Theta camera just to see if the angles would work. Somewhere out there is a version with me playing the wife and him playing the Salesman. No one will ever see that.
“I mean, planning was essential because the vocabulary of this new medium has no shorthand. If you have a director and a DP discussing a shot and the director is like ‘I want to pull out then drift over here, as if the camera gets distracted by this piece of paper’ and the DP could be like, ‘Like in Taxi Driver, the payphone scene’ and they can reach an agreement based on similar knowledge. That’s a shorthand. But with VR, there isn’t that bedrock of knowledge to rely on. You can’t say like this shot in Fight Club, or like the bathhouse scene in 8 1/2 or like the famous zoom dolly in Jaws.
“With VR, it’s all a theory until you prove it by making shitty video storyboards to see for yourself if it works. Otherwise it’s just a notion.”
KNIVES stars Jessica Lancaster, Paul Eli, Eva Hamilton and Corey Landis. It is directed and written by Adam Cosco, and shot by Maximilian Schmige. Full cast and crew at IMDB.
KNIVES made its first appearance at the FIVARS Preview at VRTO Conference in June 2016, which was focused on more of a tech and industry crowd. It will be available to all audiences at FIVARS 2016, September 16-18th in Toronto, Canada, where it officially premieres.