andre-lauzonAndré Lauzon is a producer at Cirque du Soleil Média and head of their Digital Studio. At SVVRCon, he was giving a preview of an elaborately choreographed 10-minute, 360-degree video called “INSIDE THE BOX OF KURIOS™ – Cabinet of Curiosities.” Kurios has now been released on the Oculus VR store and is free to download.

The majority of the experience includes a lengthy single-take shot that puts you on stage of a Cirque du Soleil performance that was specifically created for the virtual reality medium.

VRDigest’s Ian Hamilton calls Kurios, “The most technically accomplished 360 stereoscopic video yet released, it features perfect stitching to create a seamless wraparound stage, which the cast fills with comedy, music and acrobatics.” I’d have to agree with that, and it felt like one of those elaborate OK Go music videos that gets more and more impressive as you realize how much coordination and rehearsal that this must have taken in order to create. In fact, André says that it took over 6 months in all to produce, and it’s definitely the most impressive 360-video that I’ve seen to date.

Félix & Paul Studios originally collaborated with Cirque du Soleil over a three-week period to produce a short segment for the out-of-box experience video for the Gear VR. André says that Cirque didn’t feel like they were able to really fully explore the VR medium in that short timeline, and with some support from Samsung they were able to invest more time and energy in creating Kurios.

The press release for the Kurios experience provides the following description:

With INSIDE THE BOX OF KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities from Cirque du Soleil, Cirque du Soleil Média and Félix & Paul Studios have created an original virtual reality experience that immerses the viewer in a mysterious and fascinating realm that disorients viewers’ senses and challenges their perceptions. Just like the theatrical version of KURIOS, INSIDE THE BOX OF KURIOS transports the viewer into the curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and dimension in order to reinvent everything around him. The virtual reality version allows anyone with a Samsung Gear VR and compatible Samsung smartphone to immerse themselves in a world that is an ingenious blend of unusual curiosity acts and stunning acrobatic prowess, showing that anything is possible through the power of imagination.

André says that the proprietary VR production platform from Félix & Paul Studios is the best video solution that he has seen so far, which include both stereoscopic 360° recording and processing technology.

One of the really interesting insights I got from this interview is that André said that Cirque du Soleil has always been on the cutting edge of experimenting with different mediums like 3D video, but that they’ve always fallen flat. He said that it’s really difficult to capture the kinetic energy of a live performance, but that virtual reality is already showing a lot of promise in this way.

André also talks about how live-action 360° video directors could learn a lot from Cirque du Soleil because they’ve had a lot of experience at creating productions where there are multiple points of primary focus and secondary focus. Directors of these productions like to vary the pacing, and change the primary and secondary focus over time in order to keep it engaging and interesting. It would take multiple viewings in order to really see all of the action that is happening within Kurios. As a viewer, you have a lot of choices as to what to pay attention to, and having 360-audio cues help to direct your attention to the primary focus throughout different points of the video.

It’s still early days for these types of productions, and being able to create a fully immersive emotional arc beyond the spectacle of incredible circus performances that are largely non-verbal. The Kurios production does contain either a foreign language or “Cirque-speak” jibberish that certainly isn’t critical to the overall storyline.

It’s still largely unknown how appealing this will be to the mass consumer audience, and André is just as anxious to get a wider range of feedback once the big Gear VR consumer marketing push launches this Fall. I think that it’s certainly a compelling experience, and so be sure to check out Kurios via the Oculus VR Store if you want to see some of the best 360° video that’s out there today.

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