VR now a reality in China films

WELCOME TO WONDERLAND: A visitor experiences virtual reality at the VR Wonderland event in Shanghai.


    May 20, 2016

    VR now a reality in China films


    VIRTUAL reality (VR) is a topic that is increasingly being discussed at film events in China, often with this question: What should be broadcast via VR?

    With the country's leading online video operator Youku releasing its VR development plan in Shanghai on May 11, Chinese film-makers may now have an answer.

    A trailer of Black Fairy Tale, which stars A-list actor Huang Xiaoming, was shown by Youku at the VR Wonderland on that day.

    The thriller is China's first short film that is totally made with VR technology and allows viewers to choose their own angles to watch it.

    "VR has changed the way a story is told in films," says Victor Koo, Youku founder.

    Storytelling used to have a beginning and an end but VR now mixes personal experiences with the film-making process. "The end of a story is no longer the same for everyone."

    The company will also release 10 documentaries and a tourism series made with VR technology by this year.

    Since the start of the year, many other digital facility manufacturers in China have been promoting such products.

    Mr Koo says it is not realistic to make feature-length films fully using VR technology today - due to high costs and the problem that viewers may feel giddy - but short films in the format can work.

    Earlier this month, Iqiyi, a Chinese online video giant, estimated there would be between 10 and 20 million VR users in China in the next year or so.

    According to Wei Ming, vice-president of Youku, tourism is one field where VR can give a boost to.

    More variety and reality TV shows, including last year's hit Go Fighting, will offer VR points of view to give audiences various "positions" to watch the scenes.

    The experience will be markedly different. "When audiences hear sounds from the back of a cinema, they think the sounds are coming from somewhere far," Mr Wei explained.

    "But with VR, they'll likely turn around as the sounds will seem close enough and real."

    While a regular pair of VR glasses sells from 2,000 yuan (S$422) to 6,000 yuan on major Chinese online stores - which could be steep for ordinary consumers - a solution is in sight, even if temporary.

    At the same event, Youku launched its VR app for Android phones, which can upload more than 20,000 short VR videos.

    Viewers simply need a paper or plastic box in which to place their smartphones and 'broadcast' the VR films.