What Does XR Mean for Future Filmmakers?


What Does XR Mean for Future Filmmakers?

Just as in the recording, publishing, and photography industries, movie making is also being influenced by digital media, specifically by apps and smartphones. However,  these aren’t the type of movies where viewers watch passively as the story unfolds. The filmmakers of these movies utilize augmented, virtual, or mixed reality to engage the viewer and make them part of the experience.

The truth is, filmmakers are not using any of the three predominantly over another but a mixture of all three technologies to create what is known as XR. However, XR content will most likely not be replacing film anytime soon. Though it is still a burgeoning medium, XR is getting lots of attention from the film industry and it does offer filmmakers a different way to tell their stories and express their ideas.

Tech Companies Fueling Creativity for Today’s Filmmakers

Not so long ago, if a filmmaker wanted to get the money he needed to make a movie, he had to rely on investors or the backing of studios. Today, all a filmmaker needs is a story, a couple of actors, a smartphone, a good filmmaking app, and a decent computer for editing. In other words, a filmmaker is no longer reliant on studios but more on technology companies.

Responding to this demand, app developers are creating movie-making apps for both the iPhone and Android that allow filmmakers to explore XR concepts and to film in 360-degree viewpoints, such as Celtx Shots, Shot Designer, DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit, and Filmic. There are also other tech companies that are making iPhone hardware add-ons such as attachable lenses, tripods, or handheld devices that allow a filmmaker to use his smartphone like a film camera.

Power of the Smartphone for Digital Filmmaking

Steve Jobs or even the folks over at Google probably never imagined nor could have predicted their smart devices would have such an influence on our culture. And they probably never imagined their devices would give rise to the new artistic genre of digital filmmaking. The truth is, with new each release, these handheld computers become more powerful.

In fact, they are becoming so powerful both Google and Apple decided to focus their efforts on AR and VR film tech app development. The built-in accelerometer and compass are accurate enough to track the movement of a subject’s head and body movements, not to mention the already excellent screen resolution and processing power these devices already have.

XR Movie Acceptance

While smartphone filmmaker apps have offered a new way for professional movie directors and other wanna-be filmmakers to tell a story, the technology is still too new and hasn’t gained wide acceptance. Unless you are someone like Steven Soderbergh, who filmed his last movie on an iPhone with the Filmic app, most major studios just aren’t that interested in this new genre yet, specifically XR content.

Even though major film festivals like Sundance showcase a program called New Frontiers for AR/ VR movies, the only places where this content is widely available is through specialty stores that offer VR films for headsets or stores for Oculus and HTC. Unfortunately, that makes knowledge about these types of film projects scarce. Another avenue for XR filmmakers is, of course, social media and specialized sites on the internet.

Hardware for Viewing XR Content

One of the reasons VR/ AR movies might be having a hard time getting studio recognition is the stigma of those technologies being associated with gaming and other interactive types of entertainment. Despite this, XR is the wave of the future for gaming, movies and other areas and tech companies and film tech app development firms know it.

While companies like Oculus and HTC are the big names in AR/ VR wearables, Glyph, for instance, is developing a headset for use with a smartphone that beams a 3D image on to the viewer’s retinas. Even executives at ZEISS, known for producing amazing optics, developed a product called VR One, a headset that will accommodate any smartphone with 4.7 and 5.2-inch screen sizes. The overall hope is that consumers will eventually use these type of devices instead of their phone.

The future of XR (AR/ VR/ MR) is really unclear, but consumers are interested and tech companies are fully invested in creating wearables and software for it. The question is: will moviegoers pay to come to a theater and strap on a bulky headset to watch an XR movie?  The other question is: does any real revenue potential exists for these companies and studios? Apple and Google obviously believe enough in AR/ VR to support developers with the creation of filmmaker and other apps and to sideline other essential projects in the interim. The answer, as always, is to wait and see.