Developing a Cinematic Language for Virtual Reality Filmmaking

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Moyes, Peter D

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Harvey, Louise H

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Many international film festivals, such as those held in Venice, Cannes and Melbourne, have recently established award categories for Cinematic Virtual Reality (CVR) films. However, short videos and animation works still dominate the global CVR film industry and full-length CVR feature films remain largely unsupported. This study aims to contribute to the promotion of the CVR feature film as a viable narrative format. As the focus of this investigation, CVR film represents not only an exciting nexus between computer technology and filmic creativity but also a transformation in the way films are produced and consumed. Filmmakers aspiring to engage with this medium are faced with its significant innovative potential and consequently, with negotiating a new CVR language, production methods and techniques. The main purpose of this research is to contribute to the development of a cinematic language that can be applied to CVR filmmaking. The present study has made much progress to that end, focusing on three aspects of CVR filmmaking: CVR cinematography, cutting and editing and composition and spatial narrative. The outcomes of this study can be applied in the form of a toolbox to assist would-be CVR film directors in mastering the shooting and associated production techniques specific to CVR film production. Employing a Practice-Based Research (PBR) methodology, I have documented the progress of this research from conception to completion via a reflective journal. The main components of the PBR include a study of traditional film techniques, from which a series of CVR previsualisation (previs) experiments were conducted utilising key scenes from selected well-known films for CVR simulation. The results of these experiments were in turn used as the foundation for the second component of this research – the production of an original experimental CVR feature-length film that I directed, titled Calling. The final component of this research is a suite of new creative methods garnered from the previs experiments, culminating in a glossary of 23 new CVR-specific terms and production techniques. As research on CVR film language and techniques is still emerging, traditional filmmakers are especially motivated to better understand the potential of this novel genre and production mode. Unlike conventional filmmaking cameras, CVR cameras have multiple lenses, which demand different shooting and production methods. Additionally, the CVR space that this form of filmmaking captures breaks the flat picture frame of conventional film. Therefore, traditional filmmakers must transcend their reliance on long-standing principles of “flat film” if they are to leverage the new and innovative storytelling potentials of the CVR medium. One of the major findings of this study is that although traditional film language is able to be partially applied to the production of CVR film, traditional filmmakers need to be strategically mindful of the differences, both large and small, between “flat film” and CVR film. In particular, CVR film directors must be willing to reconceptualise their own roles in the overall filmmaking process as the CVR film is much less director-centered than traditional film and thus more audience-centered. From this reconceptualisation, CVR filmmakers need to shift their narrative-centric mode of thinking to a spatial thinking mode if they are to embrace the full creative possibilities of this emerging filmic medium.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Griffith Film School

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Cinematic Virtual Reality

feature film

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