An Introduction to 360 Animation Cinema
Research by Damné Jesús Pérez Irigoyen
The production of animation content for immersive experiences is a global trend. It is for this reason that creative studios and animation production houses in Latin America must pay special attention and put into perspective the possibilities and challenges of venturing into emerging media such as 360 animation cinema. Knowing the peculiarities of the format, great opportunities can be found to nurture the narrative content while developing innovative proposals that challenge the technique and its applications.
The following document presents a series of analyzes and reflections around the production of animated films made in an immersive format (360) as well as the potential of new media as tools to impact society by promoting projects for educational and entertainment purposes. . Throughout the document, reflections on the creative challenges that must be overcome for the effective development of 360 content will be addressed, analyzing some of the technical aspects related to its production and reviewing the possibilities that exist in the distribution stage. Finally, the results obtained from the case study of a multimedia project developed in Mexico and whose content could be published in immersion domes, mobile devices and virtual reality sets with an international level impact will be presented.
SECTION A – THEORY AND RESEARCH
- a1.- THE CHALLENGES AND POSSIBILITIES OF PRODUCING 360 CONTENT
- a2.- SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE AND TRAINING
- a3.- SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
- a4.- IMMERSION AND THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT
- a5.- ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VIRTUAL REALITY
- a6.- IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES AND THEIR DISTRIBUTION POSSIBILITIES
- a7.- DIRECTING 360 ANIMATED CINEMA – SURROUNDING AUDIOVISUAL LANGUAGE
- a8.- TECHNICAL DIRECTION FOR DEVELOPMENTS 360
CASE STUDY DOCUMENTATION
INTERVIEWS AND VIDEO TESTIMONIALS
The reflections presented in this document are based on 2 main axes, (a) theory, based on the analysis of opinions provided by experts on the subject, and (b) practice, analyzed from the position of a Mexican creative group. dedicated to animation production.
ABOUT SECTION A – THEORY AND RESEARCH
The first section of this document is based on reflections made around the information collected through multiple journalistic sessions and a constant research effort carried out by the creative group DESSIGNARE MEDIA. During a period of 3 years, testimonies and opinions have been collected from professionals and expert artists in the animation and virtual reality film industry at an international level. The documentation presents interviews with an educational tone, carried out within the framework of forums specialized in CG (computer graphics) and film animation, among which DISNEY directors presenting their work at the SIGGRAPH CONFERENCES in Canada, conversations with directors of the GOOGLE project SPOTLIGHT STORIES during the international animation film festival ANNECY FESTIVAL in France and talks with speakers from the international virtual reality festival VRFESTmx in Mexico.
ABOUT SECTION B – CASE STUDY
The second section of this document presents the results obtained from the COSMONAUTE 360 pilot project, independently produced by the Mexican creative group DESSIGNARE MEDIA. COSMONAUTE 360 is a series of short films for children, specifically designed in an immersive format for exhibition in educational spaces, including schools, museums, planetariums and new media festivals internationally. With an international distribution approach, the main objective of the project is to initiate interactive experiences between children and tutors through dynamics that promote new methods of education, using new media as a tool to facilitate said interactive experiences.
For the production of the first stage of the project, the knowledge acquired through the research sessions was applied while new techniques were generated for the realization and new distribution proposals according to the possibilities of the study regarding its social and economic context.
Dessignare Media is a Mexican creative group specialized in Multimedia Art, Design and Animation. For 10 years she has integrated a professional network to support creative projects, participating as a content producer and accredited press in international events. Collaborating as a Media Partner with animation studios, software developers, communication agencies and digital art schools. Working as a promoter of the creative industries, she has dedicated herself to providing training services, generating original content and developing dissemination strategies so that the community can connect and initiate collaborations. With a team dedicated to audiovisual production for cinema, TV and new media, it has specialized in the development of innovation projects with a specialty in brand promotion and cultural development. Creating their own 360 animation short films, documentary video formats and video mapping shows.
2.- SECTION A – THEORY AND RESEARCH
a1.- THE CHALLENGES AND POSSIBILITIES OF PRODUCING 360 CONTENT
When a studio in Latin America seeks to venture into the production of content in 360 format, it should be informed about the creative complexities and production capabilities that this implies. As it is a medium that is in constant development, several barriers will be presented to us, starting with the technological part such as the immediate need to have up-to-date equipment and have access to computers, cameras or software applications with special conditions, in addition to their respective financial implications. And on the same level, attend to the creative complexities that the medium demands of us at the communication level, because to produce effective content in immersive formats, it will not be enough to have an understanding of the language and audiovisual composition, but rather the willingness to break the molds and abandon some of the practices that we are used to in a conventional cinematography format.
Constant training and special care must be sought in understanding the benefits of a medium that is not defined because its state is constantly evolving. Being a medium that relies a lot on the technological aspect, it is possible to lose the perspective of focusing on communicating when wanting to try and put into play all the novelties that the format offers us. Our priority should be to direct our efforts to employ the best practices to make the message clear and thus be able to create effective content that can take full advantage of the possibilities of the immersive format.
a2.- SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE AND TRAINING
Unfortunately, as it is an emerging medium, there is currently not much documentation and case studies available in Spanish. The technological advances related to this medium will find their origin mostly in North America, Asia and Europe and most of the reports that analyze the best practices and recommendations to make immersive content will be in languages other than Spanish. This requires us to take our research to other regions and, in turn, places us in a position in which creative studios in Latin America that seek to venture into this medium take the lead in starting to create documents in our own language and generate knowledge.
In order to grow and improve our technique, it is extremely important that the studies that have overcome the barrier of completing a project in an immersive format consider sharing their experiences, methods and practices, this can be through educational experiences such as face-to-face courses, workshops or online classes or their participation in educational forums, congresses and dissemination platforms. Many festivals dedicated to the promotion of the animation industry have begun to open competitions with the category focused on new media, but there are few forums in Spanish specialized in this topic. In Latin America, the international virtual reality festival, VRFESTMX has positioned itself as one of the specialized forums for developers, industry, entrepreneurs and content creators that currently generate the best virtual reality experiences.
a3.- SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
Google Spotlight Stories is a platform for experimentation and development of immersive stories promoted by Google, currently winner of an Emmy award and nominated for an Oscar, it is made up of artists and specialists who work to develop and explore the possibilities of the medium to offer cutting-edge experiences narrative that take advantage of emerging technologies. Throughout the document we will present testimonies and reflections from some of the creative directors of this initiative.
a4.- IMMERSION AND THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Once we have the necessary tools and resources at a technical level to start a project, we must be open to the development of knowledge through experimentation and content development. At the same time that we learn by analyzing the success of other successful projects, we must generate our own techniques, adapting our resources for the production of animation for the immersive format. The first question is to define if this medium is really necessary and if it adds value to our content. Be very clear that the decision to enter must be based on the values that our content can acquire when developed in this format.
The production of animated films in an immersive format that implies a strong investment of resources dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge and technology, but consequently, if this content is well executed, the product can benefit from a great possibility of impact on the user, In addition to finding a great advantage in the possibilities of distribution, since the format allows its projection in immersion domes, mobile devices and virtual reality sets that are increasingly adopted.
Illya Szilak, director of Queerskins (project presented at SIGGRAPH Conferences and VRFESTmx) shares her opinion about the decision to make immersive content.
“The first question you should ask yourself as a storyteller is: why do I want to do it in virtual reality? Maybe a book or a film may be the best medium and I should do it in that format. For my project, it is the component of the space that makes it so real and making the viewer participate in the story is what generates a very strong emotional impact.”
a5.- ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VIRTUAL REALITY
Immersion has an impact component related to the impression that is experienced by feeling immersed in the experience, so its content tends to be more memorable, since living an experience can generate greater empathy with the stories, by putting us virtually in situations that we could not experience otherwise. However, the costs for high-end equipment limit the adoption of this technology and the use of the viewfinder and the use of a wired viewfinder break the feeling of immersion. The social experience, on the other hand, is yet to be defined in the coming years and the challenge is to ensure that developments can offer great image quality, playback speed and allow interaction with other users in real time.
FX GOBY, director of the short film BACK TO THE MOON, reflects on the pros and cons of the medium:
“What’s difficult with VR is that a very lonely social experience, a traditional movie you can share with more people and the challenge in VR is to make the experience shareable at the same time. ¨
(FX Goby (2018) Tips for Doing Virtual Reality)
a6.- IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES AND THEIR DISTRIBUTION POSSIBILITIES
Today it is becoming more and more common to have access to mobile devices, as prices are reduced and access to technology becomes more accessible. Thanks to different apps and CARDBOARD technology, (originally released by GOOGLE and presented for the first time at the I/O Developer Conference 2014), a smartphone can become a virtual reality viewer and take advantage of the equipment by using of the integrated gyroscope in order to be able to visualize immersive content.
The Fulldome format refers to immersive video projection environments based on domes (semi-spherical domes). A format that we commonly find in museums and planetariums but that thanks to the possibility of video mapping can be transferred to public spaces thanks to the installation of geodesic tents or inflatable domes and a system of projectors with special lenses configured for the projection of videos rendered in the “fisheye” format (fisheye distortion). Along with surround sound, the immersive sensory experience is completed without resorting to the use of headphones as is the case with virtual reality headsets, allowing an immersive experience that can be shared with more people and breaking the isolation barrier generated by headsets.
Group viewing makes the experience more interesting from an educational and entertainment point of view. An average digital dome room can hold 200 seats and host more than 10 presentations per day, impacting a total of 60,000 people per month.
a7.- DIRECTING 360 ANIMATED CINEMA – SURROUNDING AUDIOVISUAL LANGUAGE
The effective application of cinematographic narrative in a 360 format implies a very sophisticated creative exercise, especially since the medium itself will break with most of the conventions of cinema. In an immersive environment, the creative director and the artists will not have full control over the framing and its relationship to the timing of the actions. By using a viewfinder, the audience is free to explore the scene, interact with objects and look in all directions. A determining factor in not losing their attention and being able to make our message effective will depend on the correct use of the resources offered by the medium in order to direct the attention of users and maintain interest in the desired region.
An effective approach to narrative in virtual reality can be rescuing the foundations of theater, I understand that, in each “performance”, despite the fact that the audience is going to witness the same work, the result will be that each one of the spectators is going to live subtly different experiences to the rest of the users, this by the simple fact of being seated in different locations, will change your angle of vision. Therefore, we must try to have elements that serve as a guide to focus the attention of the audience on the same point. The audio, lighting and actions of our narrative elements will be vital resources to captivate the eyes and subtly have control over the experience.
In an interview with JORGE GUTIERREZ, director of “The Book of Life”, he shares his recommendations for the creative development of a short film in 360 format, taking into consideration his experience directing the Son of Jaguar project, content produced with the team of GOOGLE SPOTLIGHT STORIES.
“In the beginning, I thought of virtual reality as a new technique, but now I see it as a new medium, and I think that the way we should approach this medium to tell stories is always prioritizing the emotions and leaving the aspects behind. technicians in the background. Since a lot of VR pieces I’ve seen focus more on technology than emotion.”
a8.- TECHNICAL DIRECTION FOR DEVELOPMENTS 360
For the creative and artistic direction of a short film in 360 format, it is very important to contemplate the participation of a technical coordinator, since this will give the guidelines of the production capacities regarding the human and technological resources of the studio. The artistic direction must obey a balance between the creative vision and the technical possibilities of the team, and above all considering the creation of new routes to meet the objectives and ambitions of the production. Adopt a process in which “art inspires technology and vice versa” to optimize processes so that content generation is viable.
- The Art of Google Spotlight Stories (2018)
- Jennifer Stevens Aubrey (2018) VIRTUAL REALITY 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR. commonsense
DOCUMENTATION ON CASE STUDY
Cosmonaute 360 : Animation for planetariums in Mexico