How Felix & Paul Studios are making films for the coming VR boom

VR hasn’t yet hit the mainstream, but these Montreal producers are pioneering new kinds of filmmaking to be ready when it does

 
Partially disassembled view of the Oculus Rift headset

(Oculus Rift)

Félix Lajeunesse of Felix & Paul Studios, whose Montreal business creates groundbreaking virtual reality content for Oculus Rift, talks about how his company makes content for a technology platform that won’t be widely available to the public for months to come.


1. Build your own tools

“With virtual reality filmmaking, most of the tools either don’t exist yet or aren’t suited for what we want to do. So we started to create that technology. We have a 3D 360-degree stereoscopic camera system. It’s still a prototype in that we keep iterating. The beauty is we can tailor the technology to our needs as directors. If a project requires hyper proximity, or we want to fly or go underwater, we can transform the technology.”

2. Write your own language

“In VR, things like jump-cuts feel very unnatural. Reality does not cut. So when you cut in virtual reality, people might want to take the headset off. It’s very easy to fail in VR if you use the old language. Rarely have we done projects where a shot is less than a minute, which is super long in traditional cinema. We did a project with a family of yak herders in Mongolia, for example, and it’s just a series of moments with them. We used fade-outs and fade-ins, so it almost feels like the end of a day. It’s very soft, and it allows people to explore this world at a pace that makes sense.”

3. Think about the humans

“With VR, we want to replicate the way humans perceive reality, so we never think of our camera as a camera. We think of it as a person. Every time we do a project, the first question we ask ourselves is where to position the viewer. Our camera actually resembles a person. The microphones are made to look like ears, and the camera is about the size of a human head.”

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