Interview: Director Elia Petridis of Filmatics 360 VR Creative Services

Posted on August 21, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Elia Petridis, CEO and Founder of the Filmatics 360 VR Creative Services, is at the forefront of technological and narrative innovation in storytelling, and I had a lot of fun talking to him about it at Comic-Con. “We pitch pure creative for virtual reality and/or 360,” he told me, which means that they introduce filmmakers to new, immersive technologies, “anything where you can interact with the space.” Just like you can look around your room, you can look around the “room” or “landscape” of the film or game. This applies not just to the visuals but the audio. “The audio in your ear is positioned so when you move away from it, it moves away from you.” He says the technology could support any kind of storytelling. “They’re going to cover news, they’re going to do animation, they’re going to do education, training. In terms of narrative you have to think about it in a modernist way and so it’s like what really deserves to be immersive. Our piece is a seance in and virtual-reality you’d be at the table.”

He made a film called “The Man Who Shook the Hands of Vincente Fernandez,” which he describes as “A Western that takes place in a nursing home.” The cast included Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine in his last role, along with Barry Corbin and June Squibb.

That film was shot in a traditional manner, with a 35mm film camera. “And then here I am directing content for an immersive space which is basically four GoPros, 4K whatever. So it’s just about the impulse to tell stories and the impulse to service the medium.” It isn’t only the equipment that is different in a 360 movie. Petridis said that he looks for actors with theatrical experience “because we are shooting masters, stagnant masters for the most part. So if they drop a line we go back at square to one. I can’t jump in, I’ll get in the way, so I can’t do that. They have to nail the scene so we rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. And then get your lines, get the beats and the motivation, get the performance right and then we’ll choreograph into space, then we’ll set the camera up and we’ll shoot two or three takes and that’s it. How to directly determine a narrative in an immersive space is a different story. I would choreograph the eye like I would choreograph the dancer. So I would have something take place here and have an actor carry the activity into the next quadrant like a baton, and then have someone hand me the baton here and then have someone call me from here and then turn to him. It’s more like dance choreography mixed in with their storytelling.”

The use of this technology will extend into every area of communication and education. Petridis is now working on children’s content for hospitals, to help them cooperate with blood tests, “to distract children through neuroscience and content to make nurses lives easier and children’s lives easier, to disengage anxiety from the blood tests, especially for kids who are chronically ill. So things like helping them with sitting still or extending hands. For the VR to progress one must sit still. The nurses’ lives become super easy because the kid is sitting still and then all of a sudden 30 seconds in, in order for it to draw they give out their hands and the Band-Aid that they get is branded like the Band-Aid they see in VR so when they come out they can still look at the Band-Aid, they’ve got their badge of honor. We check in with the user experience. We want to make sure that it’s the best content for that, it’s not just like let’s put them on a CGI roller coaster. The sky is the limit if you do it right.”

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