FIRST ATTEMPT AT VR IN THEATERS

In the 1950s, Fred Waller invented the Cinerama, which is a theatre display that attempts to further immerse the audience in the movie. Basically, it’s three giant screens stitched together to create an almost 360 degree view effect.

“A human being sees 115 degrees vertically and 185 degrees horizontally. A movie screen fills only a small portion of the normal human field of view.” (Rheingold 54).

I think it’s amazing that all the way back in the 1950s someone tried to find a way to accommodate the human field of view in cinema. It’s quite an undertaking, especially with the technology that was available back then. But the result of years of research and experimentation with different projectors, Waller established a paradigm in 360 filmmaking and VR that’s still implicated today.

One of the biggest challenges in post-production for 360 filmmaking is stitching, which is stitching the frames that were taken via multiple cameras together so that it’s one, clean, consistent picture. It’s worth noting that this act of stitching, or putting together, is central to VR and 360 content since its beginning in the 1950s. My interest is a bit more abstract as I pose the question: why stitching?

I did a little research and found that stitching originates from the textile arts, and it is “a single turn or loop of thread or yarn.” (Wikipedia) They are the fundamental elements of sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet, and need lace-making. There are actually a variety of stitches that have their own unique uses.

So this leads me to the idea of assembly. VR is pretty much an assembly of images. Rheingold points to this idea when he discusses the vision of Fred Waller in developing the Cinerama. Waller attempted to use several projectors to display multiple images and tried to find a way to assemble them together for a sense of unity and fluidity across the dimensions. I love that VR is built on fluidity, consistency, and assembly. It’s these qualities of design that sustain materials and render them usable in any context. Just look at how malleable VR is and how it’s been applied in countless contexts. It makes me think of forks, keyboards, and phones. Items and devices that adhere to these fundamental characteristics of good design tend to last, because they are versatile and reliable. VR could very well be an essential item in the future. It just might be as important as a fork (probably not, but who’s to say).

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