Dance is a natural fit for a virtual reality setting, as it is theatric by nature, and movement does well to keep and guide viewer attention, a current challenge within the VR content creation space. It's surprising then that it has taken so long for a company to make a quality ballet-centric piece.
Enter Night Fall, created by VR company &samhoud media in collaboration with Dutch National Ballet and Samsung, a piece that promises to immerse audiences in dance story. The ballet was choreographed by Peter Leung, a former dance with Dutch National Ballet and music is composed by Robin Rimbaud.
The limitations for the technology account for many challenges, especially when attempting to capture something as fluid and flowing as dance. Choreographer Peter Leung states that, "It was quite a challenge to coordinate all the different aspects and to see if that would work, as a Virtual Reality ballet has never been created before. We had to hide and not get in the camera's sightline...I couldn't see how a take had gone. The result, however, is poetic and magical."
The piece itself is harrowing and mysterious. A living creature - represented by fog, traveling around the stage speckled with dancers - weaves itself in and out of the scene, bringing dancers to the forefront and taking them away. The main musician, a violinist dressed all in black, interacts and engages with dancers, luring them into the tones and hues he creates with his instrument.
The wispy lighting and lack of scenic design adds to the mystery, making it feel as though you're breaking the rules and participating in an event happening after-hours and invite-only.
Though Night Fall is beautiful and interesting, it does pose the challenges most 360° content creators face: what's the story; who or what am I as the viewer; why am I immersed in this scene? I can't say Night Fall answer these questions well, leaving me as the viewer feeling detached and somewhat amiss of any vital action or story.
Watch Night Fall here with your Chrome Browser, but as with most VR, it's best to whip out your Samsung Gear VR for the best possible experience.
Night Fall has also set a date to premier at The VR Cinema in Amsterdam and online at operaballet.nl/vr.
This piece is an excellent step in a lovely direction for virtual reality content creation and we look forward to seeing what other dance companies create in the wake of this.