Indian director's VR movies screened at London film festival

Bengaluru - VR films are shot using a six to 20 cameras.

By C P Surendran

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Published: Thu 29 Jun 2017, 12:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 29 Jun 2017, 2:30 PM

Sairam Sagiraju is a Bengaluru-based film-maker. He is not one of the run of the mill film makers either. He is a Virtual Reality (VR) specialist, and now considered a sort of  Guru in the VR entertainment, a kind of film making much in demand abroad as 3D films are going out of fashion.
Three of his VR films were screened at the ongoing London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) on June 24 and 25.
Although in India, 3D films are still a bit of a rage, the  in thing is surround experience, which gives you a sense of  immersion in what you see on the screen. Basically that means, if you are watching  Dracula, you might feel it is your neck between his fangs.
VR films are shot using a six to 20 cameras.The separate shots are then patched into a single narrative and  seen through VR headsets, and streamed through mobile phones and other devices, so the viewer gets a 360 degree perspective.
Sagiraju, a writer and director, had earlier won a Grammy Award for his music video album, 'Winds of Samsara'. So he is not a totally unknown person in the field of entertainment.
He ventured into VR film-making in late 2015, and set up his production house MirakiVR, a Mumbai-based start-up with two other friends.
The three films screened at the London Film Festival  were a short feature movie, 'Shower with me', which is 3 minutes 30 seconds long. It tells the story of  a person trapped in a shower with supernatural elements, and conveys the trauma of claustrophobia; a short tribute to Mumbai, which is 3 minutes 20 seconds long; and a trailer for a Radhika Apte film, 'Phobia,' which is  2 minutes 30 seconds.
The first movie, 'Shower With Me,' according to Sagiraju, came across to the audience as so real, many viewers chose to take off their headsets. The surround experience is responsible for that kind of reaction because it involves placing the viewer virtually within the frame.
Sagiraju  said VR films are at a nascent stage in India. As a result there is resistance from all around. "The visual storytelling grammar for 2D films has evolved over several decades - like a cut between two shots. But in an immersive experience of VR, you can't have such cuts." It is a different visual grammar.
But he finds distribution of VR movies more fraught as it involves basic changes in the Cinemas in terms of infrastructure. Though the VR headsets are available at reasonable prices, VR films require for their immersive experience, revolving chairs. Now, that is something distributors who are mostly cinema owners as well may not be happy about as that would lighten their wallets.
But Sagiraju need not fear. The future is VR. The revolving chair would have to make its eventual appearance. And not virtually either.

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