I've decided to share some excerpts from a piece I'm writing on VR (virtual reality) storytelling. These are thoughts and ideas that I'd like to experiment with, improve upon or throw away if they don't work. If you have any additional ideas or comments about mine, I invite you to write them down in the comments section.
In screenwriting, one learns that scenes must turn. If, at the end of the scene nothing has changed much in respect to the beginning, the scene should be thrown away. This is at least what I learned from Robert McKee's book 'Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting'. McKee proceeds to explain that scenes can turn through either action or revelation. A character can do something that changes the dynamics of the scene, or something can be revealed to him or the audience, that puts everything in a different perspective.
It would be an interesting experiment to discard the action-device and rely solely on revelation. This is useful in VR because of the following.
The nature of 360 degrees is such that you can look anywhere you want at any given time. If you want the audience to look in a specific direction you could use a bag of tricks in order to increase the likelihood that he looks in the right direction, but this creates all sorts of problems, and I suspect the viewing experience would become very forced.
Never I want the viewer to have the idea he may have missed something because he wasn't looking the right way. This is why crucial story elements should never be events - moments in time and space - that you can miss. They are either only in time - but not tied to a place, or they are in the space, but spread out over time. This will put the viewer at ease, without him worrying that he misses out.
Therefor scenes will not turn through action, but only through revelation - as events must be either time OR space, but never both. I imagine that creating a story that is forced to adhere to these principles must create something compelling and original. The following are examples of events that are spaced out or stretched out:
Imagine we're in a frozen-time scenario. Time is non-existent, only through our (pre-directed) point of view. Moving through space, we can reveal something that was previously hidden, for instance discovering a person we didn't expect to be there. We should give the viewer time to make this discovery - but when he does, the scene has turned, climaxed, etc and the story propels forward. The next example is more metaphoric (or suitable for fractals). We could be in a tunnel that feels small, confined, and end up in a large space. Here the turn could be from claustrophobic to agoraphobic. We can go from horizontal caverns (sense of being lost) to vertical (fear of falling), etc.
Events that only exist in time may be less useful, but I can imagine it to occur from time to time. If we are to use voice over, or literal dialogue, what is being said can turn a scene regardless of where you're looking. Changes in lighting or color can be obvious from all angles and have enough impact to be immediately on the leading edge of your consciousness.
On the brink of two hemispheres
If the story demands some traditional scenes, how do we show them? I've always imagined it would feel a little amateurish to put a 360 camera in the middle of a room (set?) to record some actors playing. Without editing, interesting camera angles and lenses, even without any place to put your lights - how can you shoot something beautiful?
I don't want to create something where we are 'in the middle of the action' I'd still would want to be an observer, albeit one that can observe a hell of a lot more then one that watches a screen. When faced with these issues, interesting techniques come to mind, like split screen. We could continually be at two places at once, on the brink of two hemispheres. This makes production easier, as lights and sound equipment can be placed in the blind corner, and this heightens the feeling that we are not 'actually present' - we are in the virtual world - spying on the real world.
These ideas, especially the last one, are mostly applicable to a screenplay I'm writing, in which the protagonist, a young woman, thinks she is a human - flesh and blood, but actually only exists in the virtual world. She can see the world through cameras, computers, etc. and can easily be at two places at once.
Wouldn't it be great if the audience would experience what it's like to be virtual?