Filming In VR: OneRepublic ‘Kids’ Director Hal Kirkland Delves Into The Next Frontier Of Music Videos

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OneRepublic "Kids" music video Screencap: YouTube/Hal Kirkland

Imagine you’re a fly on the wall in the bedroom of a teenage boy brooding over his crush. You fly across the way, into the room of the crush, who is simultaneously longing for him. In front of your eyes their courtship unfolds. This is the music video for the OneRepublic single ‘Kids.’

However, this isn’t the version of the ‘Kids’ music video you’ll see on TV. There are two music videos for the song: one shot in a standard frame and another shot for VR. Both music videos were directed by Hal Kirkland ; however, the VR version was showcased at the Tribeca virtual reality arcade at the World Trade Center Oculus last Thursday.

The four-minute, 44-second music video is a part of an emerging set of virtual reality based media, which is now going beyond the demo era that VR appeared to be stuck in for several years. Many writers and directors are now pushing to create complete projects for VR enthusiasts to enjoy. Music videos, short films and short TV shows may bridge the gap between VR as an experimental technology and VR as a standard medium. Creators believe VR will help evolve the way stories are told.

“It's a matter of building and introducing the visual language. You're starting off and you're in that room and you're thinking it's a standard proper video. But when it starts moving it's like whoa, surprise -- and that introduces you to the visual language that will go through the entire film,” Kirkland told iDigitalTimes.

The “Kids” VR music video was shot in a single take using a Nokia OZO 360, and being in the experience feels somewhat like a dream. Wearing a Samsung Gear VR headset, the floating transition from one room to the next is slightly jarring at first, but quickly becomes comforting as OneRepublic and the crowd viewing the outdoor performance comes into view. Bringing nuance to the scene are the song itself, coupled with various sounds intended to engrain the viewer more solidly within the scene.

Viewers can hear the boy throwing his canvas on the floor and the paper airplane thrown by the girl. However, Kirkland noted much of the sound had to be stripped back, as to not take away from the primary purpose of the clip. “Because it's a music video the song has to be God almost,” he told iDigi.

There have been considerable and rapid advancements on the hardware end of VR. Samsung introduced its fourth iteration of its Gear VR headset in August, while headsets including the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR all released in 2016. However, many creatives, including Kirkland, agree that the content creation end of the equation remains in its infancy.

“In the beginning [it was] kind of a cowboy era, which was a year ago in VR and still is happening,” Kirkland said. “People were creating these experiences, which were so intense that it was making people feel ill.”

For now, consumers can expect VR experiences to remain short. It may be some time before virtual reality comes to mediums such as full-length movies, largely in part due to the time and expense of creating scenes. However, Kirkland imagines as the artistry of filming for VR advances and the technology behind it also improves, directors and studios will also gravitate toward experimenting with longer pieces.

“Then it becomes, you go [to the movies] because maybe the VR headsets are way cooler than the ones you have at home,” Kirkland said. “Or maybe it's because at the cinema you have that experience where you have the wind blown on you, or the room gets colder.”

In addition to “Kids,” the Tribeca’s virtual reality arcade also showcased the short film “Invasion” by Baobab Studios, episode one of the VR TV series “Invisible” created by director Doug Liman and the experience “KÀ The Battle Within” by François Blouin, Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël. The first arcade went from Nov. 4 to 6 and the station will return between Nov. 11 to 13 and Nov. 18 to 20. The virtual arcade is located at the Westfield World Trade Center in the Oculus and is free to the public.

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