We're always delighted when a big-name Hollywood Director decides to step into the VR fray. At Cannes we had Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and at Tribeca it was Oscar-Winning Kathryn Bigelow. Her 8-minute VR experience, 'The Protectors: Walk in the Rangers' Shoes' has since been released via the Within App and is now available for all (and it's free)!
First-and-foremost, it's an incredibly powerful film about an important topic - championing the work of brave rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis to fight against the ruthless elephant poachers. Lots of the trademark Bigelow shots are there, with helicopters landing on top of you, tracking shots through long grass, etc. This gives a certain cinematic feel to it but we can't help feel that it doesn't quite make the most of VR. When tracking through the aforementioned long grass, you really feel like you're there, impulsively putting your hands in front of you to push back the vegetation. I would happily 'live' within these shots for longer, especially if the drama was built up and a sense of space was developed - where are you, where are the poachers, where are the elephants, what are you going to find on the other side!?!
I wanted to really feel like I'm on the ground with the rangers, ironically 'walking in their shoes' (as per the film's title) but Bigelow's over-use of editing and more traditional film techniques simply disorientates and deflates any sense of atmosphere and drama that could be more naturally built-up. This fast-cutting, along with a lot of camera movement reduced my sense of immersion - the precious gift that VR gives and the thing that must be treasured above all else!
VR is still in its infancy but I often feel experiences, as opposed to films, demand fewer shots that are better developed and more greatly enriched.
But that's just my opinion... what do you think? Go check it out for yourself.