Virtual reality films are edging ever nearer to the mainstream and, like many video technologies before, a major step on the journey could see them break through first in adult films.
Thanks to the entrepreneurial set-up and competitive nature of pornography, the industry has a reputation for pioneering new standards – be it VHS over Betamax or Blu-ray over HD-DVD.
Video Marc Dorcel, a French adult film production company, will on October 21 launch the first ever film to mix 3D footage (a technology it pioneered in 2011) with a 360° virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display.
“So far, every VR adult movie I had seen was CGI (computer animation), but the audience is not interested, they want real flesh and skin,” Ghislain Faribeault, the VP of Dorcel’s Media Division told euronews at Cannes’ MIPCOM. “For this 3D 360° project, being the very first was not our goal, we were rather aiming for a sleek final product. We first thought about going public last April, but we had to push back.”
It took Dorcel a full eight months to find partners, shoot the scene with the help of equipment rigged with 14 Go-Pro videos, stitch it together, and process the video in post-production. “It’s in the company’s DNA to innovate, maybe because we are more nimble than others,” Faribeault says. “The porn industry is often the first to adopt and adapt technology.”
While the technology is undoubtedly cutting edge, suppliers remain shy of collecting the credit. Faribeault says he could not disclose the name of the video recording company he worked with as it is too wary of damage to its reputation in the small but booming VR industry for collaborating with a porn company.
Ten times more expensive than a regular shoot
To get this far, Dorcel faced a series of challenges. “On a VR shoot, we do not face the same constraints as a regular scene,” says pornstar Anna Polina. “Actresses need to stay in specific spots or ‘lanes’ for the 360° to work once the footage is stitched together. And we had to shoot the demo in a single sequence-shot.” For this 150-second scene involving five actresses, the shooting started at 9:30 in the morning and lasted until 4:30 the same afternoon, with several rehearsals.
“The writing process is entirely different too,” Faribeault says, echoing a common complaint of VR content producers regarding the storytelling of a 360°. No matter what the subject, there is no predicting whether the user, whose view is panoramic, will keep his or her eyes on the action. This, Dorcel’s VP underlines, raises the issue of the set, which needs to cover 360 degrees, and not just the 120° in front of the camera.
Shooting the as-yet-unreleased hardcore scene proved even more difficult. You can’t put the camera rig on the actor’s head, “or you’ll get sea-sick in 30 seconds,” Faribeault explains. To maintain the illusion, he has to stay still with the camera next to him. “The constraints were only technical for the hardcore scene,” Polina concurs, “there’s no more emotion or enjoyment, it’s purely technical.”
Producing a VR video, porn or otherwise, is also very costly. First of all, the demo requires five actresses to fill the 360°, instead of two in a regular scene. The shoot is particularly difficult, not to mention time-consuming, as is the editing and post-production phase. So, for this project, Dorcel spent almost ten times as much money than on a 2D production.
The final product will be out on October 21, a nod to Back To The Future 2, says Faribeault with a smile – it is the date to which Doc and Marty arrive in the hoverboard-flying future. The video sells at around 10 euros (the price has not been set yet) and will be available in two versions, 10 and 15 minutes. “You can’t yet fast-forward on head-mounted VR displays, so we don’t want people to get bored because they can’t jump to their favorite part,” Dorcel’s VP explains.
The company seems happy to follow this trail-blazing path. “We are lucky to be a self-financed company, and not have to worry about a specific business plan for this endeavour, so we can embark on experiments like this, even if it will be a loss leader.” For now at least. Head-mounted displays are to hit the mass market by Christmas this year with large companies (Samsung, Facebook, Sony…) investing heavily in the technology. “In the future, I am convinced people will play video games and watch porn only with VR displays,” Polina says.