I want to send you down a rabbit hole of virtual reality that will challenge everything you think you know about “filmed” entertainment. Prepare to redefine your understanding of how images and experiences are created and how “story” is delivered.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)

Matt Workman is the man behind Cinematography Database, which you can find at www.cinematographydb.com and on its Facebook page. I enjoy Matt’s work because he’s shot almost every medium there is, much like myself, and has witnessed and actively engaged in every step of the digital cinema revolution. He has one foot in photography and one in post, and shares an overall ethos and approach much like my own, namely that it’s the combination of art and science that creates the greatest immersive imagery to carry a good story.

My passion is the science behind the art, the craft that will set you free to realise in moving images the vision painted by your imagination. It’s kept me writing this blog since 2008. I feel Matt has the same goal at heart, and so I encourage you to follow his work closely. Matt can teach you a ton.

Virtual Reality and Beyond

What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)

Something new is brewing in the world of entertainment. It is the result of ever advancing photographic and 3D imaging technology, and a generational shift in how we want to consume and experience story.

In his recent article “How Tech will Automate Cinematography – The Evolution of Media and Metrics” Matt takes us on a journey from the traditional big screen to the small screen and beyond the virtual reality of today into a sci-fi like AI authored future of total virtual immersion via neural implants.

Now, I don’t agree with everything, but he’s asking some important questions. Sure, right now this is total science fiction, but that’s not the point. The point is, the technology and many of the necessary building blocks for a deeper, more real than real immersive experiential alternate reality are all around us. Technologies that are still in the lab won’t be for long, and what’s not in active development yet, soon will be.

This has me imagining what it might be like to be totally immersed in an alternate reality somewhere between The Matrix and the complex layered dreamworlds of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, building worlds in real time and sharing experiences with many other players who take on the roll of both audience and actor simultaneously.

The Evolution of Story

This has nothing to do with the slow incremental evolution of how we write screenplays, of cinematography, editing or the methods of its application. It has nothing to do with the technological and economic changes in traditional production or distribution models that have taken place over the past century.

This is something totally new.

For as long as humankind has existed, we have been telling stories. How we have recorded, delivered and experienced those stories has changed as technology has given us ever more sophisticated tools and methods of communication.

From the oral traditions of our ancestors to the written word, these stories first evoked the imagery of the mind. The imagination was the camera, the interpretation of written recorded events through the filters of the mind rendered individual experiences.

With the invention of photography, motion pictures were inevitable, and they changed everything.

This is another clean break from what was before. Although it is about generating imagery, and involves the same science, the same art, it has very little to do with most of what we know about cinema to date.

For me, this whole vision represents a major evolution of storytelling into something totally new and separate from the carefully scripted, linear, traditional filmed entertainment we have known since the beginning of the motion picture.

It is more than just the progression of technology, it marks the beginning of a totally new language for story.

What Does 2016 Hold?

I believe the immediate future of the digital cinema camera is More Resolution, Higher Dynamic Range, Larger Sensors and we’ll see this continue to play out.

However, virtual reality will be a real buzzword this year and I believe we’ll see further breakthroughs in computational photography. Today’s stereoscopic 360 degree virtual reality whether filmed or computer generated (or a combination) is just the tip of the iceberg.

We’re already on the bridge between the past and the future.

The future is very exciting indeed.

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