The Invisible Man | VR Short Film
Maurice Schutte and Hugo Keijzer wanted to produce a VR short film, and tell a story in 360°. As Head of Video and Virtual Reality at The Secret Lab, Maurice was used to working on commercial VR productions for clients, but he wanted to produce a narrative-driven short film. To realize this they teamed up with Midnight Pictures, the film production company of director Hugo Keijzer and producer Ellen Utrecht.
Creating in 360 is a very different experience than a traditional film, where the cast and crew are used to working within a designated space. In 360, everything shows – the whole environment. There is no “off-camera”. The 6-camera set-up commonly used records the entire environment, and the viewer can choose to watch any part of the 360 space. The set, the script, the acting, all has to be re-thought for this new medium.
The Invisible Man VR Film
Maurice Schutte, Co-Producer, explains the production process:
Back in March I contacted Hugo Keijzer (the director) and explained that I wanted to do a VR short with the goal of telling a narrative in 360° and to raise the bar of VR storytelling. We both quickly agreed that we simply had to do it and without any further delay, we jumped into production and came up with a script (by John Weich) that eventually – after a few tweaks – became The Invisible Man.
Filming in 360° was new for us
Because filming in 360° was completely new for us we had to first familiarize us with the various cameras out there and the limitation of the technology. After some research I contacted a good friend at a local company called 360kings to help us out on the day of filming, and with the stitching. 360kings already had experience producing professional 360-videos for their own clients. Their role was to do all camera work; providing gear, setting up camera’s, giving the director a live feed from the cameras and do the stitching.
Soon after we started rehearsing the film ourselves, to determine what worked and what didn’t work. These rehearsals where filmed and roughly stitched into a 360° video and helped us a lot to determine the set, blocking and positioning of the camera. When we had this locked down we could start searching a location and pick a day for filming.
Due to the location of everybody involved (the production team resides in Amsterdam while we casted the actors in London) we were looking at both location but ended up filming on a shipyard in Amsterdam on June 1st. We flew in the actors a day earlier for rehearsals and flesh out the script to the final shooting script.
Running into things on the set
We always knew we wanted to film the short with the set lighted as much as we possibly could. So we ended up with one big softbox above the actors that we needed to replace in post-production. But while we were preparing the set we discovered the ground didn’t stabilize the camera-tripod enough. So we ended up rigging the camera onto the back of the wall. This decision came both with a major upside but also a downside. The downside was that we had to clean up three cameras instead of just one (without the blindspot taken in count). The major upside was that the rig was hanging and that the camera didn’t move an inch the whole shooting day.
Great take but the table moved!
The Invisible Man is filmed in one long take and we did nine takes in total. Because of the length the actors needed to understand where the stitch lines were and we had to change the blocking a few times to create the best result. The take we ended up using came with a small problem though. The table slides into the blind spot of the camera after the fight. This was an additional area we had to fix in post. Luckily we had filmed a lot of plates and made a lot of stills so that we had the materials available that we could edit with Skybox plugins.
What we used during filming
The whole production was filmed with six GoPro 4 Black cameras in a Freedom 360 broadcaster rig. Because the crew wouldn’t be in the same room we had five HDMI cables run through the set to a small video village with four SmallHD AC7 OLED HDMI monitors. In addition all the actors wore microphones and some additional microphones were placed in the set.
For the post-production the video-stitching software by Kolor was used to stitch it all together by 360kings. From this point on we (myself and the director) started to use Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere and Skybox Studio to clean up the video and get rid off all the camera-equipment, composite the blind spot, replace the lamp and add additional smoke in the plates. We did this on two MacBook pro’s with an Oculus Rift DK2 on hand and Mettle SkyBox VR Player, which connects the RIFT to Adobe software. We did further editing in Premiere Pro with SkyBox 360/VR Tools, which lets you work with 360 footage, much like you would with traditional editing..
How I got into VR
I have a background in videogames, so have been following the VR development with great interest for a few years now. But I was a skeptic until the E3 of 2014, where I was chased by an Alien in Alien: Isolation and flew into a space battle with Eve: Valkyrie. Since then I paid more attention and started to follow the development of 360-cameras closely. Without access to the newer cameras, we decided not to wait any longer and just go with the options available. And the result is our VR short film!
The Invisible Man is a co-production between The Secret Lab and Midnight Pictures. The Secret Lab recently opened a VR department to develop both 360-degrees videos as VR environments for clients. Midnight Pictures is a film production company developing both short as feature length films.