How Oculus Rift Could Save the Movie Business

By Vince Matthews

The movie business is a complex machine. As an actor, you’re playing out a scene against a tennis ball that will later become a troll through the magic of computer-generated imagery (CGI).

As a director, you’re constantly trying to stay on top of the latest technology and use it to make a great film. And as a studio head, you have to make sure everything comes together on set and translates into a film that will draw audiences into theaters.

Would you watch a movie in virtual reality? If Hollywood has anything to say about it, you could be seeing your next summer blockbuster in VR.

More recently, the movie industry has been fighting piracy and is also having to re-engineer its business model to include services like Netflix in the mix.

And while box office totals still set records and 2015 is expected to be the biggest year ever for movies, Hollywood execs are still worried that home theater systems and streaming services are keeping people out of theaters. Hollywood needs a technological kick in the pants in the worst way.

Seeing is Believing
Enter Oculus Rift. The virtual-reality headgear company (owned by Facebook) has already been blowing minds with gaming and immersive experiences that rival something out of Star Trek’s Holodeck. And now Hollywood’s heavy hitters are trying to figure out how to use the technology to tell stories.

From movies to theme parks, VR could be the future of entertainment.

Imagine for a second you’re in a theater wearing a VR headset. In front of you, an actor talks about the dragon that is about to come out of the forest to your right.

You hear the giant lizard stomping its way toward you and turn your head to the right to look at the forest. The actor’s voice is now on your left as you turn. You don’t see the actor, just the forest. But you can now hear the actor yelling, “Here he comes!” in an English accent.

Something that looks like Smaug breaks through the trees. You turn to look back to the actor, who is now running away from you as the camera angle shifts and you’re face to face with a massive fire-breathing beast.

It’s an interactive movie experience – where instead of just sitting and watching, you follow the story from location to location, determining the plot line you want to follow.

It may seem far-fetched, but the technology has already been used in a major motion picture and more movies that use the tech are on the way.

Interstellar VR Experience
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Oculus Rift Experience was the first movie to use Oculus Rift. The technology simulated a zero-gravity experience, which took the already incredible story to new heights. The Oculus movie experience prompted this response from one moviegoer, “It felt very real. I want to go back and do it again.”

No surprise there. At this past year’s Comic Con, Legendary Studios (their founder invested in Oculus) set up a demonstration that allowed Oculus-wearing viewers to pilot a Jaeger robot suit from Pacific Rim. The line for the experience wrapped around the convention center.

Nate Mitchell is one of the founders of Oculus. He recently told Hollywood Reporter, “VR can bridge the gap between games and films. Games have been incredibly interactive but lacking in terms of story. Films can be powerful in terms of stories,” he says. “We’re going to see all sorts of combinations of the two. We’re just trying to get a handle on what makes sense, what’s interesting and what’s fun.”

Fun? How about flying on a Nimbus 2000 in a new Harry Potter movie? Or running alongside a Jedi as he sabotages an Imperial base? Or deciding to explore the room where James Bond is being interrogated?

The potential Oculus brings to story-telling is mind-boggling – and it’s coming to a theater near you.

Hands-On With Oculus VR
If you’re eager to learn how to create worlds using virtual reality, there’s nothing like getting your hands on the technology. Digital Media Academy can expose you to tech such as Oculus Rift and other amazing hardware (and software).

Plus, if you’re looking to create the next Interstellar, DMA can help there, too. DMA’s summer film courses are critically acclaimed and offer future filmmakers hands-on production experience.