It’s no secret that we’re excited about interactive storytelling here at Vimeo. In fact, we’ve spent the last several months hosting meetupsspeaking on panels, and teaming up with creators to test the boundaries of what’s possible.

What we’ve learned along the way is that the future of interactive storytelling is bright. From volumetric video to visual effects powered by machine learning, today, we’re sharing four trends that go beyond 360°.

1. Volumetric video as the new frontier

Over the years, 360° has proven to be a gateway for filmmakers who are interested in a more immersive medium than traditional film. Now, some of those very same creators are dabbling in a new format: volumetric video.

Volumetric video allows users to capture live-action human performance in 3D. This proves especially useful for crafting virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality experiences. With tools like Depthkit to make the technology more affordable and accessible, volumetric video is on the rise here at Vimeo and beyond.

Case in point: at this year’s Sundance, we saw a 50 percent increase in volumetric video projects curated into the program compared to 2018. Tribeca Immersive and Cannes’ NEXT program saw a similar increase, and we expect continued growth in the years to come.

(Want more volumetric video? Check out CLOUDS, a.k.a. the first volumetric documentary film ever made. Fun fact: It was distributed using Vimeo OTT.)

2. 3D capturing gets easier

Also gaining traction is the ability (and accessibility) of capturing real-life objects and environments in 3D. This is thanks in large part to a wave of innovation in tech.

Current methods for shooting 3D video include laser-based techniques (like LIDAR scanners), infrared scanners (like those used for volumetric video), and photogrammetry (a method for creating 3D models out of multiple 2D images).

Most exciting is the ability to capture 3D environments using your phone’s dual lens camera and depth sensors, which is also on the horizon. Imagine: just point, shoot, and boom, 3D.

(Learn how to create 3D models using a 2D camera in Az Balabanien’s talk from a recent volumetric filmmakers meetup at Vimeo HQ, or watch other talks at the VFNYC page.)

3. Gaming and film collide

In 2013, David Cage spoke about the intersection of film, interactivity, and gaming at the Tribeca Film Festival. Now we’re seeing all of these elements come together in games that look like films and films that are made using game technology.

Cinematic games are the first example of this trend. Combining established film conventions with interactivity, cinematic games use well-known actors, motion capturing, and facial capturing to engage users.

Then there’s the new wave of filmmakers using gaming technology to create films in real-time, like Sarah K. Sampson and Neth Nom’s Staff Picked short, “Sonder”(shown above).

Further powering this movement is the Unity plugin for Vimeo, which makes it easier for game creators to capture and stream their work — and leverage Vimeo’s review tools in the process.

4. AI generates characters and plots

Image from Magic Leap on Giphy

As we push further into the field of machine learning, we are witnessing both amazing and ominous possibilities. One of the most interesting developments is the ability to train and deploy characters and speech using artificial intelligence alone.

Take for example Magic Leap’s Mica demo, in which a machine learning-operated avatar mimics human facial expressions to near perfection. Then there’s the latest Marvel Avengers film, which used machine-learning algorithms to generate Thanos’ facial expressions.

Using AI to generate, process, and augment 3D assets is predicted to grow this year. We believe machine learning as a whole will play an integral role in democratizing creativity in the years to come.

(For another mind-melting AI example, be sure to check out Sunspring, which was written entirely by an algorithm.)

What trend are you most excited about?