Watching woodworking with YouTube on a 2D screen is fun and all, but it is nothing like the real thing. If you are there to learn, then a 2D atmosphere is not the best option available. When we live in a world where 3D 360° videos are made in a regular, why would we settle for anything less than that? Adam Savage saw a gap in the industry, and he took it to the next level.
“What I noticed when we watched that first four-minute build video in VR was an entirely new level of intimacy and immediacy,” explains Savage. “Sitting virtually across from the maker was leagues more instructive, intuitive, and physical than just watching it in 2D on a screen. Seeing the movement of materials and the movement of the maker’s hands in three dimensions was thrilling! VR is a game changer when it comes to more deeply covering the skills, stories, and problem solving makers explore when they set out to make something. It allows the viewer a seat at the bench as it were.” Said savage in an exclusive interview with Oculus.
Oculus sat down for a full interview with the developers of this game and experience to understand how and why this game was made. You can check out the full interview on their blog, or you can check out our favorite parts below.
What experience (if any) did you have with virtual reality prior to building this experience? What were your thoughts then, and how do you think about the tech now?
Joey Fameli: While I’ve been exposed to VR from the early stages of development, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in headset, with experiences. I’d check in on the tech, watch the improvements, and demo a few things, but most of what I saw was really angled towards the video game industry. It wasn’t until I saw a demo of a 3D VR180 live-action experience that the potential really clicked for me. I honestly didn’t think there was much room for live-action VR filmmaking before this. It always seemed like filmmakers were trying to retrofit their current production style to be viewed in a VR headset, instead of using new tools to complement the strengths of the platform. Having spent a large amount of time now in this production environment, I’m excited to try new things and develop more material for it.
What was it like to work with Adam Savage and the other makers involved?
JF: Adam is always great to work with in the shop. He’s a talented maker, but also a highly skilled communicator. He loves to make, and he loves to explain the process of making: a combination that works perfectly for the VR180 format. If a camera wasn’t sitting there in-shop, he’d probably be doing the exact same thing: making and documenting. When I shoot traditional build videos with him, my aim is to provide a point of view to be that of a “fly on the wall,” but with VR180 the idea is to make the point-of-view a person standing there in front of him. My biggest curiosity was how that was going to inform his performance. It ended up working great, and he engaged the camera (audience) in a way that really sang when viewed through a headset.
That was something that surprised us with all the makers we shot with. We approached every shoot day giving the makers a disclaimer that this was an “odd” format, in that the camera will be stationary, and they’ll have to “present” to it, with ideally very little starts and stops (to avoid too much editing). Once the makers got going though, they spoke to the camera quite naturally, like speaking to a friend or a captive audience. The production elements kind of just disappeared and it was just them and us.
It turns out, when you ask a maker to demonstrate and explain a process that they’re insanely passionate about, and get out of their way, you get some good stuff!
Any interesting anecdotes from the production process that you can share?
JF: Most of the fun for me came from putting on a headset in post-production and being surprised or amazed at some of the little things that came out spectacularly in 3D. Things like particulates, wood chips, or sparks, that added this extra layer of depth and immersion in the experience. Near the end of shooting the series, we knew how to look for that stuff, and tried to include as many small immersive moments as we could. We even carried around a can of spray fog to shoot through beams of light, just to highlight the atmosphere.
What can fans expect from the experience?
JF: Fans of Tested are going to experience a level of intimacy with our content that is usually only reserved for us, the production team. The normal videos we publish on our site are a wonderfully detailed look at the maker process, but there is something inspiring and exciting about being in the shop with a competent and talented maker. Tested VR does just that—it puts you in the maker’s space with them.