We were thrilled when Hallelujah was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival and the Marché du Film, Festival de Cannes this year. However, we had approximately two months to prepare and support Within for these big milestones. One of the key items our team focused on was creating an in-venue Light Field player (works on both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). We had built a pro-level Light Field player, which supported directors and VFX artists during the post-production process, but it contained tools that were complex and not required for an in-venue experience. We needed to provide a simple and streamlined player that could be used by anyone.
“Hallelujah” from Within, is the world’s first live action Light Field VR experience. It was captured and produced using the Lytro Immerge system.
Product management worked with the UX, engineering, and marketing events teams to define use cases for the player with the film festivals in mind. As part of that analysis, we determined that the piece should automatically reset to the beginning after it is completed, so the docent would not have to reload the content. This streamlined the viewing process at festivals and reduced the time it took to get the next person into the experience. We also identified that the audio volume was critical to Hallelujah, and altering the sound levels set by the music supervisor and director would change its impact. As a result, we did not include a volume control in the player, and instead used the system to set the sound level. When combined with noise cancelling headphones to replace the standard Rift headphones we were able to provide a controlled audio accompaniment for the experience. For the very best immersion, we decided to disable scrubbing of the content after hitting play. This helps eliminate viewer disruption during the experience.
Zach Richter, Hallelujah’s director, wanted to forge a stronger emotional connection between the viewer and performer by placing the viewer eye-to-eye in the Light Field volume with the singer, Bobby Halvorson. To fulfill Zach’s creative vision we built in functionality that would support this connection in the experience. As you can imagine, there are thousands of viewers in attendance at a festival, of varying height, who wanted to experience Hallelujah. We used an Oculus Rift to deliver it, but the Rift requires a fixed height dimension to be designated at set-up, which would not have supported the emotional connection he desired. To place viewers of any height eye-to-eye with Bobby, our team created a “center” button as part of the in-venue player. With one click, it automatically recenters the Light Field volume around each viewer based on the positional tracking in the VR headset. This ensured we could fulfill Zach’s creative freedom in a streamlined manner and customize the experience for hundreds of viewers each day.
In preparation for the festivals, Zach provided clear and simple creative direction for the installation. A key aspect was to have the technical equipment disappear as much as possible, so the focus would be on experience. The black-draped enclosure we used matches the beginning of the piece, and the computer, keyboard and mouse are hidden under the table. The sensors are almost undetectable against the black backdrop. But the challenge remained on how to easily start, stop and monitor the experience without access to a keyboard and mouse. The solution was to use a black, 13” touchscreen monitor and tablet stand that would be camouflaged by the black drape. This dramatically increased the ease of use and enabled the docents to efficiently get viewers into and out of the experience.
Left: Initial creative mock-up of the “Hallelujah” installation. Right: “Hallelujah” installation at Tribeca Film Festival.
In the player, Hallelujah also fades to black as the viewer approaches the edges or the “out-of-bound areas” of the viewing volume. This directs the user back into the viewing volume in a subtle way, and the 5′ rug in the installation matches this cue. It provides viewers a tactical cue that may seem small, but has a huge impact and ensures a good experience.
The “Hallelujah” booth at SIGGRAPH 2017 in the VR Village.
The line to get on the waitlist for “Hallelujah”.
During the events, the experience ran precisely as designed. We created a quick start guide to train docents and provided troubleshooting guidelines for the Hallelujah experience. Combined with the simplicity of the in-venue player, it took only minutes to train the docents once the system was set up. To date, Hallelujah has been available at the Tribeca Film Festival, Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes, VES Bay Area Summit, Sonar+D Barcelona, and SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles. To find out where you can view Hallelujah and experience live action 6DoF Light Field content first hand check out the schedule at https://vr.lytro.com/dates