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Breaking the Fourth Wall: VR Production Tactics, Techniques

Breaking the Fourth Wall: VR Production Tactics, Techniques
Stephen Yagielowicz

The tech world has long seen the cyclic debut of fabulous (and fabulously expensive) products, which initially wowed pundits and early adopters, but were left antiquated with the next round of releases.

Virtual reality production technology is the newest example, rapidly decreasing in price even as it increases in capabilities, where intimacy, mobility and ditching the tether and supercomputing needed to drive a high-end headset is pushing the imminent onslaught of VR Gen 2, opening the door to mass market adoption and a wave of “me too” consumer content creators.

Since our content is already fully rendered we don’t use ‘real world’ cameras, therefore we haven’t used any traditional VR filming techniques. That being said, the filming of our demo video for ‘Nympho-Trainer’ forced us to get ‘creative.’ -Nicholas Dodge, VReleased.com

When the tools are no longer the differentiator, it falls upon technique to make a difference that can separate one competitor from another. XBIZ recently asked an elite group of VR insiders, “Which VR filmmaking techniques do you utilize to create truly innovative content?”

Their responses proved enlightening:

Reality Lovers’ CEO Rene Pour told XBIZ that at its core, VR filmmaking is vastly different than shooting regular porn, regardless of whether it is gonzo or cinematic porn.

“We have been shooting more and more with a movable camera in order to offer something more than just the standard POV position, which works well,” Pour said. “However, after 50 or 100 scenes a certain fatigue will set in.

“We have also been implementing what we call a ‘voyeur’ version of each scene so that the user can choose the way he/she wants to enjoy the content,” Pour added. “But in the end, our goal is to get inside the user’s head as opposed to the director’s vision in a normal shoot, and that makes the difference.”

YanksVR CMO Todd Spaits said producing VR today is the digital content equivalent of the Wild West.

“There is really no specific learned ‘technique’ we have used to take Yanks’ branded content through the fourth wall to become YanksVR branded content that we haven’t come up with in-house,” Spaits stated. “We started from scratch and created our own systems and styles.”

Spaits told XBIZ the studio’s producers analyzed past Yanks.com shoots to determine which angles, themes and scenes will be enhanced by harnessing VR horsepower.

“Which past shoots would take the viewer into the scene when filmed in VR?” Spaits mused, elaborating, “We took those shoots and evolved them.”

It is a practical approach that all producers with existing libraries might use as they dip their toes into the VR waters. Sometimes, however, relying on data and experience from past titles is not possible — such as when a new producer enters the scene, or when it is a live cam session streamed in VR.

CEO Fabian Grey said that although AliceX only does live streaming, “the models respond to the requests of customers, which makes every experience unique and innovative.”

“We also roll out new 3D backgrounds for customers to choose from, enabling them to create their custom experience in both realistic and fantasy environments,” Grey explained. “The home setup we are working to integrate now will also be a huge game changer for us, and the models, and customers, since users will literally be transported into the bedrooms of the models.”

VixenVR CEO Jimmy Hess told XBIZ the studio shot content with a wide range of camera configurations over the past couple of years and that “it has been trial and error from the beginning.”

“We started out with balls of GoPros and even shot with the crazy expensive Nokia Ozo,” Hess explained. “A great production team and a core group of content producers on our team have pushed the envelope on our projects.”

Hess noted that lighting is a big factor when shooting VR scenes, especially with specialized applications.

“We have more or less set up our own sets for unique green screen captures and the list goes on,” Hess added. “We are also excited about companies such as Terpon that are bringing more affordable cameras for streaming and content production.”

Marc from Simsense Media said the studio films in front of a green screen to open up the possibilities for unique settings.

“This gives us the freedom to be more creative when it comes to storylines,” Marc told XBIZ. “We also take advantage of positional audio, something we’ve yet to see from any studio.

“Positional audio allows the user’s head movement to control the direction the sound is coming from, which adds an extra level of immersion,” Marc explained. “So far, the only player I know of that supports it is the Samsung Milk VR player for the Gear VR.”

CEO Daniel Abramovich told XBIZ that VRBangers has always been fans of 360-degree VR, “so, from day one, we’ve been filming in 360 degrees to make our VR videos truly immersive.

“I still think that true VR is 360 degrees, even though people don’t really look back while watching porn, but only one look back will really trick your brain into thinking that you are really in a different environment,” said Abramovich. “It’s harder to do, yes! But we like to do everything the hard way and make true 4K 360 3D VR content.”

Alex from TmwVRnet.com calls adult VR “a new porn direction,” and told XBIZ that “the time for pretentiousness hasn’t come yet because the market has to become saturated with quality content.”

It will only be a matter of time, however, as high-quality innovative VR content is pouring into the market and taking a diverse range of approaches to erotica — a process that drives “filming” techniques in unexpected ways.

“Since our content is already fully rendered we don’t use ‘real world’ cameras, therefore we haven’t used any traditional VR filming techniques,” VReleased.com CEO Nicholas Dodge told XBIZ. “That being said, the filming of our demo video for ‘Nympho-Trainer’ forced us to get ‘creative.’”

Dodge says the studio ultimately created a virtual camera in its 3D rendered scene, then programmed the movement of that virtual camera to mirror the Vive remote’s movement in the real world.

“From there, we could then use that Vive remote as a camera in the real world to film someone playing our game in real time,” Dodge explained. “All technicalities set aside, it was a very fun shoot! It’s really tough to have someone who has never experienced VR try and understand what our game experience is like — this filming technique helped with that!”

President Anna Lee said HoloFilm Productions focuses on bringing the subject in as close as possible, mimicking reality in the virtual realm.

“Sex brings you as close to a person as you can possibly get physically, so it is incredibly important to shoot as close as possible while retaining optimum scale and clarity,” Anna Lee explained. “I personally strive to shoot with as much realism as possible.”

Anna Lee said she wants the experience to feel real and natural by taking into account all aspects of the composition of the scene.

“We also often shoot in 220 degrees or more in order to maintain the feeling of immersion,” Anna Lee added. “I believe that the more immersive you can make the scene, the more innovative you become. Make the viewer believe the reality you present them with.”

“We maximize user immersion and engagement by giving viewers the feeling that they’re actually present in the performer’s actual bedroom,” CAM4VR’s content manager Ela Darling told XBIZ. “This accelerates the relationship formed between viewer and cam performer, thus giving our broadcasters an incredibly impactful way to connect with their viewers.”

YourVRPorn.com’s public relations coordinator Piper Blush agreed, saying VR filmmaking is different from traditional shoots, with the most important thing being to create a sense of intimacy with viewers.

“You want to do everything you can to maintain the feeling that they are in the same room as the performer, that they are the one being touched and experiencing the action,” Blush said. “The viewer sees the action through the eyes of one of the performers, and it’s crucial that he does not move or speak, to avoid disrupting the immersion.”

“As for the other models,” Blush added, “you want the maximum amount of proximity to the camera (while not being close enough to cause eye strain), keeping as much eye contact as possible, even going so far as to kiss the viewer ‘virtually.’”

This chorus shows that the added complexity of VR production means that mastering techniques based on audience understanding is more important than ever before, just to make it all “worth the effort.”

Paradigm Net Media founder Telly told XBIZ that nothing is more important than working with directors who know exactly what their fans wants to see.

“The industry has taken the ‘filmmaking’ aspect out of content creation recently as budgets have been more constricted, which, I feel, ultimately led to a ‘run and gun’ style of shooting,’” Telly explained. “Content these shooters created was for a non-specific audience, yet paying customers know exactly what they want. Paradigm Net Media’s goal is to partner with passionate directors and filmmakers so they may create compelling content while not having to worry about the technical and post-production processes of VR.”

Grooby Productions president Steven Grooby told XBIZ, “We’ve tried some different ideas, both from whose point of view (from the girls, or where two girls switch part way through the scene). Unlike the other trans content I’ve seen, we’re trying to create a more authentic experience with models and situations which may be more realistic and immerse the viewer in the virtual reality.”

Other companies have eschewed content production in pursuit of VR infrastructure or support services.

“We don’t actually create the content, but our platform can display and aggregate any form of VR content pulled off the web (2D, 3D, Stereoscopic, 360-degree WebGL, linked content and interactive content),” Rocketbike ARVR CMO Sean Earley told XBIZ. “Stereoscopic 360-degree video and even 2D stereoscopic video is amazing in VR when done properly, and our platform supports them.”

Earley said one aspect of adult VR that is still under-realized is binaural 3D audio.

“I think if content creators spent more time on the little subtleties of what immersive adult content can provide, such as an in-close whisper in the ear in 360, as opposed to always obsessing on perfect HD 8K video,” Earley adds, “the unique quality of the content would definitely help push the adoption rate.”

Terpon CEO Jean-Claude Artonne said it is important to point out that Terpon does not make any content of its own in any way and will not create content for sale in the future.

“We have no interest in competing with our own clients,” Artonne explained. “They are the best content creators in the world and we are focused exclusively on what we do best — creating the devices that make their work even better and so much easier to create.”

Artonne told XBIZ that in the very near future, innovation on the hardware side will allow the next step in VR filmmaking, enabling a range of new and innovative techniques.

“[For example,] the miniaturization of high quality cameras and the encoding of accelerometers to avoid motion sickness along with other sensor data in the VR content that goes beyond the current VR point of view and allows better storytelling,” Artonne added, “with more interactive and immersive toys powered by new haptic technologies.”

Other companies are pushing the envelope using today’s technologies, advancing them into the future.

“On VRcosplayX, we are the first company adding 3D effects and post processing effects to our VR porn videos,” BaDoinkVR head of production Xavi Clos told XBIZ. “Some examples: we added ghosts to our ‘Harry Potter’ parody and Invisible Woman to our ‘Fantastic 4’ scene. User feedback has been amazing.”

Adam from CamasutraVR told XBIZ the company uses advanced photogrammetry to do “a super high detailed scan” of the performers.

“We capture around 250 body, genital and facial poses and we master with 16K textures so the detail is absolutely amazing,” Adam explained. “The environments are a mix of photogrammetry and CG and we try and capture the performer’s persona as close as possible.”

Adam said custom software is then used to create “clever” animations and deformations.

“Our experience is 100 percent real-time CG,” Adam added, “but we strive to reach near photorealism.”

Discussing production techniques with this group of experts reveals that producing high-quality VR porn takes much more than sticking a fisheye lens in a model’s face and hoping the green screen is lit right — if you wish to be commercially competitive in this arena, you’ll need the skills to be competitive in the non-VR film world, as the novelty of VR content is quickly being swept away by a growing flood of titles.

Creativity, effort and innovation are the hallmarks of great VR and the foundation of your palette of techniques for bringing fans into another world...

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