Facebook’s 360-Degree Short Film Shot at Grand Central Station
Ask any New Yorker about the best viewing spot in the city and most of them, without any hesitation, will answer the Grand Central Station. And it seems like Facebook agrees with them as shown in their first-ever 360-degree, 3D narrative short film entitled Here and Now.
Here and Now: Facebook Shoots 360 Video at Grand Central Station
Here and Now is just over three and a half minutes in length, but its length belies the massive scope of the project. It was shot over the course of five weeks and involved over 500 artists, who together become part of an all-engrossing series of vignettes. Some may even consider the pieces of the narrative as little slices of life.
One could ask why Facebook opted to shoot such an ambitious project when it could have easily set up a 360-degree camera in the middle of the station and let it capture a multitude of little human interactions over the course of a few days—of people traveling as well as New Yorkers themselves going about their daily activities.
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Here and Now itself reveals the potential of 360-degree, 3D narrative films and what it could mean for the film industry in general. Throughout the film, a series of story lines are explored. One is that of a husband and wife in a marital. Another family is shown gathering around their daughter and asking her to go camping. Another narrative shows a gathering of people with like minds. All these narratives, among others, surround the observer, accompanied by subtle audio and visual signals that help guide the person through the narratives.
One interesting aspect that needs to be highlighted is that you, as the observer, do not need to chase after any of the narratives’ details. You can pay no attention at all to the family requesting their daughter that they go camping nor to the woman in the red dress, who gets more and more irritated as she waits for her late boyfriend. You can simply be immersed in yourself and in your place in the middle of those narratives.
According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a media interview, “It’s a preview of what a full-length virtual reality movie will feel like. Instead of watching the video, you’ll be right in the middle of it.”
It need not be said that the concept of 360-degree video is a very fresh one, and it is interesting how many filmmakers and manufacturers test out the idea on their own terms in their specific industries. There have been other instances, for instance, when Hollywood has tested out the idea in its own cinematic excursions. Recently, there has been the Game of Thrones title sequence filmed in 360 degrees, lots of immersion experiences in the Star Wars universe, and even David Attenborough himself has been shown to be hanging out with dinosaur ghosts. Here and Now is different from the said endeavors in that it is an exploration into how the medium of virtual reality can expose and highlight additional real-world human drama, although These Days by Nico is another endeavor that is said to be a bit sentimental.
The short film is easily accessible via smartphone or PC via a web browser, but it was designed in line with the specific features of Oculus Gear’ VR headset and Samsung headset in particular. The Factory made sure it had these equipment ready at all times throughout the entire shooting and editing process, which took a total of five weeks, in order to ensure that the film would run properly in virtual reality. Its developers are also preparing it to be accessible for streaming or watching via the Oculus Video app. In the long run, the film serves another purpose: that of revealing to filmmakers and developers the potential of a highly sophisticated 360-degree camera like that of Facebook’s Surround 360.