Few really have mastered the ability of creating the full immersive sense of awe that Oculus environments are capable of invoking. Eliza McNitt- writer and director of SPHERES is one of those people. Proving herself after her multi- award winning VR project Fist Full of Stars, McNitt has again advanced the emerging media art of VR with her new three part journey exploring the sounds of space. Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, winning praise at Sundance and acquired under a seven figure deal with CityLights this feature has gained well earned attention. Narrated by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), and Patti Smith we are navigated through the event horizon of a black hole, hear the unfamiliar song of our nearest planetary bodies, and come upon a new view of the cosmic home we all share- Earth.
I first encountered Oculus VR technology a number of years ago as part of a students art exhibition in San Francisco. 3D paintings with depth and texture found in every paint stroke. I was shocked to realize my movement through the art piece brought new surprises, and the kind of emotional depth in discovery nearly impossible to replicate in other forms of media. Your engagement with the work is critical in telling the story. What caught me most was playing around with the painting software itself. Quickly I became aware how daunting a task it is to create an art piece with a canvas expanding in all directions! Oculus poses an immense opportunity and challenge for the art and entertainment worlds. That challenge being the steep learning curve required to create something truly masterful. So when I finally put on the Oculus glasses again for SPHERES, I was thrilled to see my hopes finally being realized.
VR experiences are at their best when they fully take advantage of space and distance in ways that are emotionally impactful and critical to storytelling. SPHERES not only delivers this outstandingly well, but it blew away my expectations. Standing motionless in a dark room, I felt as though I was floating through the expanse of space with my only companions being the grazing vibration of passing radio waves and the ever present hum of planetary magnetospheres.
This isn’t a film I could spoil through a complete summary, this is an experience. One that will subtly alter your view of the universe. Events and objects separated by years of passing starlight become intimately close, familiar- experienced rather than just known.
Seeing is believing, but experiencing is knowing. So experience this limited event for yourself, running from January 18th to March 3rd at 600 Rockefeller Center. Event information can be found below.