Discovery was one of the first media companies to seize the potential of virtual reality content, supporting its shows with 360 videos and a bespoke VR mobile app. As the technology matures into a mass market consumer offering, K7 Media caught up with Delia Dobritoiu, CEEMEA Production Manager, as she returned from location filming in Romania for The Haunted Castle, a special Discovery VR experience created for Halloween.
The short was selected as part of an internal CEEMEA regional challenge to pitch new VR projects, with German digital producers Elisabeth Vogel and Franzi Binder’s idea of a black and white horror tale set in the real Corvin Castle winning over the judges.
K7: What was it about the Haunted Castle pitch that made it stand out in the challenge?
Delia: The panel of judges loved the mix of paranormal, history and the opportunity for companion programming. The 360 video was launched on the VR platform, but the idea of the Haunted Castle will be used to promote the on-air and online Halloween campaign for various regions.
The VR era is just in its infancy….we have a lot of surprises in the future.
K7: This has been a truly international project, benefiting from Discovery’s global presence. How many different teams were involved overall?
Delia: Discovery VR is Discovery’s VR department in the US. When you have your own team of professionals you do not think twice about whom to use. The German digital team had the idea, the CEEMEA Central team based in London helped coordinate the process and the US team made it happen in VR. We also had a local Romanian team to help with behind the scenes, interviews and live Facebook streaming.
K7: How does shooting for VR change the actual production and filming process?
Delia: The biggest challenge of a VR shoot is that nobody can be in the room when you start recording except for the protagonists, so every single scene is discussed in advance in detail. It does not matter if the 360 rig is moving or it is just standing in the middle of the room, the entire 360 perspective has to be ready for the screen. No cables left behind, no extra bags or anything you normally hide behind the camera.
K7: Does that limit the sort of scenarios, genres and stories you can explore in VR?
Delia: I think that VR will find a lot of ways of expressing a big variety of scenarios. I spoke to some friends in Romania, for example, who want to start producing theater plays in VR and this is not the only great idea they have. There are however some challenges that VR is facing in this moment, like limited attention span of the viewer, so the length of a production is at this point very small. But I do believe that the VR era is just in its infancy, so we will have a lot of surprises in the future.
K7: How did you find the editing process? Given the shift in perspective that VR offers, do traditional editing techniques and methods still apply?
Delia: Apart from the fact that before you go in the editing you need to do the stitching to get the full 360 perspective, the other editing techniques still apply. Our Haunted Castle for example will be black and white with a lot of post-production and sound design just like a normal production. Our VR specialist was mentioning that VR technology has advanced so much that in a year we won’t even need the stitching process because that will be done automatically while filming.
K7: Do you think VR works better in shorts, or can you foresee a time when broadcast-length or even feature-length shows are shot for VR?
VR as it is right now works in short form, but there is no reason to believe that with technology advancing we will not be able to see full length films in VR. Although I do consider it a challenge to spend an hour and a half turning around to get the best experience of your VR, I have heard some great ideas for watching 360 content in long form.
Haunted Castle is available now at http://www.discoveryvr.com/watch/haunted-castle, as well as via the Discovery VR app and YouTube page.