My Brother’s Keeper, VR Short Film Debuts at Sundance | Perception Squared

My Brother’s Keeper, VR Short Film Debuts at Sundance | Perception Squared

My Brother’s Keeper is a groundbreaking new VR short film, written and directed by Mettle customers Connor Hair and Alex Meader (Perception Squared). It debuted at Sundance Film Festival at the HTC VIVE™ exhibit at “VR on the Mountain” on January 20th, and was also part of the Jaunt VR line-up at Sundance.  The VR innovations include first use of true slow motion shot at 120 fps, and new 180° framing techniques and custom-made camera rig. We are proud to say that Mettle 360/VR Plugins were used in post-production.

The project was produced for PBS Digital Studios by Brian Seth Hurst at StoryTech® Immersive and Perception Squared, in collaboration with the Technicolor Experience Center. The film tells the story of two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War, and gives viewers a fully immersive 3D stereoscopic experience.

Read an earlier blog posting on Perception Squared: Connor Hair and Alex Meader present at NAB 2016.

Behind the Scenes: “My Brother’s Keeper”

Most of it is shot in 3D and 360, a difficult proposition in a studio, let alone out in a field or in the branches of a tree. Visual effects are more difficult and more voluminous. Not only that, but the battle scenes are shot in slow motion — 120 frames per second.

My Brother’s Keeper was inspired by the PBS drama series, MERCY STREET, which kicks off its second season on Sunday, January 22.

The nine-minute film tells the story of two estranged brothers, Ethan, 19, and Jackson, 16, who are fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War and unknowingly reunite at Antietam, the bloodiest battle in American military history. Shot on location in Virginia using more than 150 Civil War re-enactors, the story is fictional but based on historical accounts of brothers who fought against each other in the war.

“Connor and Alex have done an amazing job of developing new techniques that combine traditional cinematic storytelling with the full capabilities of VR in a way that’s never been done before. In keeping with PBS’ long history of innovation, we are excited to present this project.”

-Don R. Wilcox, executive producer of the film for PBS Digital Studios. 

Key battle scenes and flashbacks were shot on the Jaunt ONE omnidirectional VR camera whose technicians readied the camera’s 120fps capabilities in time for the production. It is the first time true slow motion has been used in VR.

The filmmakers also built a camera rig—the “Johnny 4”—exclusively for this production, enabling them to use dynamic camera movement and close-up, stereoscopic shots of actors to achieve the highest level of intimacy between the character and the viewer.

As the story progresses, Hair and Meader also focus the viewer’s attention by introducing 180° framing, in which the back half of the 360° view is blurred by bringing the Bokeh effect from traditional film into VR.

“We knew the innovation, production values and story had to be at the highest possible level to reflect the quality inherent in PBS programming. This meant assembling a cutting-edge production team combining artistry and new technologies to serve the story and the audience in ways previously not possible.”

– Brian Seth Hurst, chief storyteller at StoryTech Immersive.

The cinematic VR experience will be available on Viveport, HTC Vive’s app store, beginning January 21, and across a broad spectrum of VR and 360 video platforms beginning January 27. In addition to HTC Vive/Viveport availability, My Brother’s Keeper will be available through full 3D-stereoscopic immersive experiences for the Oculus Rift and Samsung Video on GearVR to mobile and web monoscopic 360 experiences at PBS.org, Facebook 360 and YouTube360. Additionally, Littlstar will enable availability via their apps for Sony PlayStationVR, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, Apple TV and iOS and Android devices. Jaunt will also distribute the piece through its multiplatform application.

Cutting-edge visual effects and post-production services were contributed by the new Technicolor Experience Center, and Technicolor Sound Labs crafted a deep and rich soundscape using innovative workflows.

Read more about it on Tech Crunch, the HTC Vive Blog, PBS.org.

Alex Meader is an award winning writer and director who has been telling stories across many different mediums for almost a decade. His body of work includes feature films, short films, TV Commercials, branded content, music videos, and virtual reality.

Meader’s extensive commercial directing experience has included brands such as Chevy, YouTube, HyperX, Wonderful Pistachios, Jacuzzi, Denso and Major League Gaming. He was recently honored by the American Advertising Federation of Orange County with an Addy award for his writing and directing work on “One Small Piece” a commercial for automotive manufacturer Denso.

Over the last two years, Meader has been focusing his attention on the realm of virtual reality and the immense potential it has for storytelling. His first foray into VR was a collaboration with Connor Hair on his short film “Real” where he contributed to the writing process and helped produce the film. Following this Alex and Connor collaborated as co-directors on a piece of VR branded content for YouTube as part of a program designed to educate brands and agencies about the power of new media and viral marketing.

Connor Hair is a writer, director and award winning cinematographer. After working as a cinematographer on six feature length projects, Connor shifted his focus toward directing virtual reality experiences. His in depth knowledge of camera technology and prior experience directing shorts allowed for a confident transition into this new artform.

In 2015 he directed two short films for virtual reality. The first, titled “Real”, is now doing its festival run and will be released as an app for the Oculus Rift in early 2016. “Real” was his first venture into virtual reality filmmaking and was an experiment in telling stories in this new medium. The second, titled “En Pointe” was selected as a winner of Samsung’s “There in 60 Seconds” contest and had its premiere screening at Sundance.

Connor is constantly experimenting with emerging technology and has a passion for telling stories in unique and innovative ways.

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