It seems Microsoft Kinect definitely has interesting entertainment use cases outside of the gaming field, as the high-tech camera has already been used to record music videos and to incorporate interactive music and lighting effects to an art installation. But the Kinect for Windows team just shared how a team of movie makers made a virtual reality short film called Giant using the Kinect technology.
As Serbian Director and co-creator Milica Zec grew up in a war-torn zone, he wanted to use his personal experience to tell the story of an American family trying to survive an attack by hiding in their basement. But fearing an incoming catastrophe as the explosions come closer, the parents tell their frightened daughter that the disturbing noises are actually coming from the footsteps of a giant who would like to play with her.
The short film was introduced to the public as a virtual reality installation during Sundance Film Festival: while viewers were wearing Oculus Rift headsets and installed in specially-designed chairs with integrated subwoofer, they could experience a five-minutes immersive experience that mixed a traditional live-action film with a 3D video-game-engine environment. Reception to the VR film has been very enthusiastic, and Microsoft shares that Mad Men actor Jon Hamm was one of the first person in line to try the emotional experience after having heard the buzz about Giant at the festival. Director Zec added:
"Through virtual reality, the viewer can see, hear, and feel what it’s like to be at the epicenter of a conflict zone. They can also witness the fear and suffering that millions of innocent families around the globe are going through, at this very moment.”
The VR experience was enabled by Kinect for Windows v2 mixed with a technology called DepthKit that can temporally and spatially align depth information with high-res images. In the end, this technology combination allowed the director to "use live action performance as volumetric video assets inside a computer-generated environment rendered live by the Unreal game engine". Giant’s producer and co-creator Winslow Turner Porter III added:
“Kinect was an immensely affordable and beneficial solution for us. We were able to leverage the low-cost device with sophisticated processing to enable a one-of-kind immersive experience.”
The creative team plans to continue to explore the potential of VR films, and Giant is actually the first part of a planned VR trilogy. Microsoft will also continue to sponsor the experience, and the short film may get potential screenings at the upcoming Games Developers Conference, GPU Technology Conference and the Eyeo Festival.
It's great to see the Kinect technology being embraced by creative people, and we hope Microsoft will continue to support innovative use cases of its high-tech camera technology. Please let us know in the comments if you think VR films are the future of entertainment!