Get ready for experiential viewing

Filmmaker Anand Gandhi believes virtual reality and augmented reality are the future of storytelling.

Updated - July 21, 2015 08:25 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2015 07:57 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Anand Gandhi Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Anand Gandhi Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Soon, we’d be a part of ‘experiential viewing’. Watching a car commercial can be participative. Imagine feeling like you are in the driver’s seat, and at the turn of your head, driving through Swiss Alps or forests in Bolivia. Anand Gandhi says all this will be possible in a year’s time when companies around the world will roll out virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) content.

The director of the much-celebrated Ship of Theseus and his team plan to roll out short, experiential videos that will initiate end users into VR content, followed by short films and eventually, a full-length feature film.

Gandhi believes soon we’ll get to watch live shows, concerts and stand-up comedies in VR format. “By this time next year, there will be millions of videos. We are going to be watching adventure sports videos where we will feel as though we’re flying off things; VR and AR will be used in advertising and branding. It’s a $30billion industry,” he explains.

Gamers wears high-definition VR headset

In 2014, Gandhi was touring the US, delivering lectures in different universities. He was invited to talk at Daqri, a company that specialises in next-generation content in Los Angeles. “In the past, I had experienced VR, but this time I know it’s going to be explosive. We discussed the future of storytelling and ‘the experience of awe’. AR and VR are tools that will push storytelling forward. The idea is to learn from innovative storytelling that’s going to happen around the world,” he says.

Gandhi returned to India and the first task was to complete his next production, the feature film Tumbad . “It was a distraction,” he laughs. Then, he established ElseVR, a company dedicated to developing content for VR and AR. “ElseVR is Recyclewala Labs 2.0 version,” he says, talking about the production house he established in 2010 with producer friend Soham Shah.

The fact that there is no precedence in India for such film and media content doesn’t make him nervous. He recently exchanged ideas with a similar firm in Bangkok and says, “There is healthy knowledge sharing between companies working on VR. We are all tinkering with a toy. To my knowledge, we are the first company working to develop film and media VR content in India. We’ve begun shooting and hope to release something by the end of August.”

Gandhi is writing his next feature film in VR and isn’t losing sleep wondering if the Indian film industry is ready for it. “I trust the audience. I wouldn’t have made a film like Ship of Theseus had I worried about the market. We will be able to do away with the existing method of distribution and exhibition in future and communicate directly with viewers. Wherever I have travelled in India, there have been exciting conversations and people want good content,” he says.

Strong content, he asserts, will remain at the core of the videos and short films that the team will produce. “The craft should be invisible,” he says.

How does one access VR content?

Companies such as Samsung, HTC, Oculus Rift and Google are to release wearable VR gear. A VR headset, for instance, will place the viewer in a 3D environment and transport him/her to the location of the content. The VR experience can even be tactile. A few VR sets come with the addition of Haptic suits that allow the user to manipulate the environment and even feel sensation.

A screengrab from the team's forthcoming VR film

At the moment, an open source do-it-yourself kit popularised by Google’s Cardboard initiative can turn any smartphone into a personal VR theatre.

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