From the invention of the motion picture camera in the 1890s to the first actual, recognizable motion picture; how long do you think was between the two events? Take your time. I’ll give you a moment.
The answer is ten years. Ten years. Think about that for a second. It took a decade from the invention of the motion picture camera to the first movie.
“And it would’ve been very easy for these people to say, oh look, pat ourselves on the back! We’ve invented something new. We’re done!” laughs Eric Neuman, founder of Sprawley, an interactive tool and playback system for interacting with 360 and VR content.
Upon the invention of the camera, there was very little innovation in the new industry of film-making.
“So 1890s, the film camera gets invented, and they’re just pointing it at plays. They’re going into playhouses and pointing their cameras at plays, and they’re literally just recording from one location – no movement, no sound, no color, no editing, no anything!”
It’s a far cry from what we’re used to today, says Eric, and filmmakers at the time were wondering why they weren’t getting anything compelling out of the other side.
“It’s because they were just adapting the old stuff to the new, just pointing this new medium technology at the old medium.”
And that, he says emphatically, is where we’re at today with 360 video.
“We have this brilliant new capability and we’re pointing it at the same things we would point a film camera at. But that’s not nearly enough.”
When it came to motion pictures, it took a landmark innovation in the form of the Great Train Robbery, the aforementioned, arguably first recognizable film. At just twelve minutes long, the silent film used a number of then-unconventional techniques that have since become ubiquitous.
“Before the Great Train Robbery, everything that people were doing was just pointing these cameras at one thing. Then we have this landmark and it changed everything. It created this new medium out of what was essentially just a novel.”
“People were saying these moving pictures weren’t going to go anywhere. They’d rather see the play! They’d rather see it actually happen… Largely, they thought that the medium was frivolous. Then we get this Great Train Robbery, and all of a sudden, people get it.”
Within just a few years, the world went from zero movie studios to several, and filmmaking saw exponential growth in both industry, and technical advancement.
“But more importantly, the language of film was established in really the next five years after the Great Train Robbery. The things that we take for granted today: establishing shots, reverse shot, shots, you know, key lighting. So many things that we take for granted were created right then.”
Even with all these advancements, it wasn’t until 1927, almost thirty years later, that sound was incorporated into cinema.
“And honestly, this is a revolution. This changes the whole nature of movies. Not least in which is it makes film more accessible to young viewers who can’t read.”
Think about that, says Neuman.
“It took 50 years from the invention of the camera to it even having sound. Quickly after that we get to the point where we have color in 1932. So what we have here is a 50 year timeline from the invention of the film camera until what we today would consider to be anything remotely like an actual full on movie.
So what I think you should take from that is where we are today with 360 is so, so early. It’s so naïve to look at that and say this is a complete medium.”
But is it even it’s own medium? Unsurprisingly, Eric would answer yes.
“First question is: what the heck even is it? The definition that I like is that any tech that replaces your environment with a virtual one, places you into a virtual world.
If you’ve ever seen anyone watch a 360 video, you know they’re not there anymore, they’re not next to you anymore, they’re in that virtual world. They’re under water with those sharks. They’re flying with the eagles, whatever it is, their world has been replaced by another one, their reality has been temporarily replaced by one that is virtual to that. So I think that 360 video is very much that.”
But why does it even matter?
“Part of the reason I think it’s so important for us to consider 360 video to be a part of VR is that this battle is already done.
If you talk to most people in the world today, they still haven’t tried VR. There’s two kind of people in the world: people who don’t like VR, and people who have tried it. Of the people who have tried it, most of them will tell you ‘oh my god, VR is amazing, it’s the medium of the future and all I want to do is watch VR all day long!’
And what you’ll notice if you pay attention to these people, these nubile audience members, they honestly have no idea that anything other than 360 exists. They don’t know that there are 3D games, they don’t know about Oculus Rift or hand-tracking in the Vive. They only know that they put this box on their face and they were transported to another world.
And so to them, that is VR, and we should be embracing these people, not trying to dissuade them.”
The quotes from this article taken from Eric’s talk at VR With the Best.