Despite all of the excitement surrounding VR and 360 video, there’s a quiet, creative anxiety nagging many creators who have boldly entered the space -- namely the question of linear storytelling. While there’s little ambiguity surrounding the enormous potential for these technologies to be applied toward gaming and live events, it remains less obvious what sort of ramifications 360 will have for the sort of conventional storytelling we’ve come to expect at the theater, television, and Vimeo, for that matter. While some creators will downplay 360 as just one more storytelling tool in their toolkit, this attitude is arguably naive since the visual language that we’ve developed after more than a century of moviemaking clearly doesn’t translate directly to 360.
Enter New Media Ltd., a bi-coastal video outfit whose first venture into 360 video is today’s Staff Pick Premiere. “The Giant”, which premiered at SXSW this past March, is a fable about a young girl who discovers music, which causes her destruction, and ultimately, her rebirth.
Considering how technologically advanced and visually stylized this short is, it’s therefore somewhat surprising to consider that “The Giant” was originally conceived as a live-action piece. “Mike [Anderson] actually wrote the Giant years ago for live-action; it was actually the first time we all three worked together. Ryan [Dickie] shot it and Abby [Horton] AC’d. It didn’t work as live-action.”
The project was then shelved indefinitely until 360 video emerged. According to the creators, “once it became evident that 360 was in our grasp, we were like, ‘let’s go for it.’” Armed with the knowledge that the story would be better served by a combination of animation and newly developed 360 technology, New Media Ltd. had found the right medium to tell this story.
As a fable, the choice to employ an ancient form of storytelling is ironically right where this technologically state of the art piece derives so much of its success. According to the creators, “[fables] seemed contemporary in how rapidly they delivered a narrative -- you have to wonder if old oral traditions of storytelling [are actually] similar to the newer internet-style of telling stories.” In the case of “The Giant,” by resorting to a stripped-down narrative style in which an impartial narrator plainly states the most basic plot points, the viewer is left to rely on the video’s vividly rendered environment to fill in the blanks.
Perhaps herein lies a small breakthrough in 360 storytelling. Rather than looking to the complex language of contemporary visual storytelling, which is itself the culmination of a century of experimentation, “The Giant” is an acknowledgment that when it comes to the evolution of the craft of creating 360 video, we’re closer to Méliès than we are to Malick and closer to Homer than we are Hemingway. By simplifying the narrative while understanding and embracing the limitations of the medium, New Media Ltd. manages to tell a coherent and truly captivating story within 360 video -- a feat that is currently elusive to many creators, but will become less so as more filmmakers accept the notion that when it comes to writing the handbook on 360 storytelling, we’re barely past the introduction.
Check out more of Vimeo’s Staff Pick Premieres here.
p>If you’re interested in premiering your short film as a Staff Pick Premiere, please check out vimeo.com/submit for more information.