We Met in Virtual Reality, a documentary shot entirely inside VRChat (now available to stream on Max), was one of the highlight’s of last year’s Sundance Film Festival. It deftly showed how people can form genuine friendships and romantic connections inside of virtual worlds — something Mark Zuckerberg could only dream of with his failed metaverse concept. Now the director of that film, Joe Hunting, is making an even bigger bet on virtual reality: He’s launching Painted Clouds, a production studio devoted to making films and series set within VR.
What’s most striking about We Met in Virtual Reality, aside from the Furries and scantily-clad anime avatars, is that it looks like a traditional documentary. Hunting used VRCLens, a tool developed by the developer Hirabiki, to perform cinematic techniques like pulling focus, deliberate camera movements and executing aerial drone shots. Hunting says he aims to “build upon VRCLens to give it more scope and make it even more accessible to new filmmakers,” as well as using it for his own productions.
Additionally, Hunting is launching “Painted Clouds Park,” a world in VRChat that can be used for production settings and events. It’s there that he also plans to run workshops and media events to teach people about the possibilities of virtual reality filmmaking.
His next project, which is set to begin pre-production next year, will be a dramedy focused on a group of online friends exploring an ongoing mystery. Notably, Hunting says it will also be shot with original avatars and production environments, not just cookie-cutter VRChat worlds. His aim is to make it look like a typical animated film — the only difference is that it’ll be shot inside of VR. It’s practically an evolution of the machinima concept, which involved shooting footage inside of game engines, using existing assets.
“Being present in a headset and being in the scene yourself, holding the camera and capturing the output, I find creates a much more immersive filmmaking experience for me, and a much more playful and joyful one, too,” Hunting said. “I can look up and everyone is their characters. They’re not wearing mo-cap [suits] to represent the characters. They just are embodying them. Obviously, that experience doesn’t translate completely on screen as an audience member. But in terms of directing and the kind of relationship I can build with my actors and the team around me, I find that so fun.”
Throughout all of his work, including We Met in Virtual Reality and earlier shorts, Hunting has been focused on capturing virtual worlds for playback on traditional 2D screens. But looking forward, he says he’s interested in exploring 360-degree immersive VR projects as well. It could end up being part of behind-the-scenes footage for his next VR film, as a part of an experimental project in the future. In addition to his dramedy project, Hunting is also working on a short VR documentary, as well as a music video.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-director-of-sundance-darling-we-met-in-virtual-reality-launches-a-vr-studio-164532412.html?src=rss