How this film producer fell in love with virtual reality - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 31, 2017 7:36 am

How this film producer fell in love with virtual reality

VR does away with traditional filmmaking crutches, says Bowstring Studio president Sean Quinn.

Behind the scenes at Bowstring's "Temple Adventure" shoot.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Bowstring Studios cofounder Sean Quinn.

Virtual reality wasn’t really on our radar until a client approached us in 2014 about a potential project. It was right up our alley – location shoot in Montana, action sports, vehicle mounts, even a herd of horses. So, we rushed out and bought the only commercial VR rig going at the time and started shooting around the office.

The nice thing about a new technology or production technique is that you have a lot of freedom to explore and try new things without any preconceived notions on how it should work. The downside is that you get to make a lot of mistakes. That certainly applied here: high contrast environments can render shots dramatically under or overexposed, seams could be eminently fixable or completely shot-wrecking and just for a kicker, it’s relatively easy to make your audience physically sick.

VR is a whole new medium, and I like it mostly because it takes away a lot of traditional filmmaking crutches. With lighting necessarily minimized and the entire visual sphere in view at all times, action happens in real time. You also can’t control where the viewer is looking — but you can try, leading them through the shots through visual or audio cues. That sort of thinking is challenging and new, and that’s always fun.

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A still from “Temple Adventure.” (Courtesy photo)

Our clients are thankfully pushing past VR-for-the-sake-of-VR and asking for us to tell stories via VR.  As the production tools improve and the audience gets savvier, it can’t just be about a pretty image. We are also getting a lot more requests to move from a third-person perspective to a first-person POV, which is really a challenge in VR. Everyone wants to be able to look down and see their “hands.” We are putting the finishing touches on an entirely CG experience, which is another exciting frontier for VR. Bowstring is always embracing the newest technology and we will continue pushing those barriers to tell our client’s stories, above all else.

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I am really proud of the “Temple Adventure” piece we produced with the strategic marketing team at Temple University. The concept was to join a team of students who are searching all over campus for a mysterious treasure, allowing us to introduce the campus to prospective students and partners without resorting to a virtual tour model. The challenge was in making a first-person POV rig that someone could run with, as well as deconstructing one of our drone platforms to carry a VR rig. We wrapped the whole thing in a retro 8-bit video game aesthetic, and the audience response has been tremendous. Our technical knowledge has allowed us to stay at the forefront of the VR movement and we are excited to continue working with our clients to push the boundaries and bring their stories to life.

Watch “Temple Adventure” below.

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Sean Quinn

Sean Quinn cofounded Bowstring Studios in 2001 and has been intimately involved in nearly every aspect of the company, most recently as president and executive producer for most projects. Sean has led projects for clients including American Family Insurance, Xfinity, GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. Army. Recently, Sean has immersed himself in the world of virtual reality filmmaking, completing VR projects for Humana and other companies.

  • Howard McCabe

    Yeah, thats not VR. Thats 360 video. Not close to VR.

    • RM

      “…Not Close to VR”??

      Please elaborate.

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