On Monday, at the Web Summit 2018, Darren Aronofsky in his interview with WIRED correspondent Lauren Goode, spoke about how virtual reality and artificial intelligence is giving filmmakers and writers the freedom of being more imaginative and enabling them to shape up their vision into reality.
He is the director of many successful movies including Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan and one of his recent projects is based on VR called Spheres. It is a three-part virtual reality black hole series written by Eliza McNitt and produced by Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures. Aronofsky believes that combining storytelling and VR provides viewers a true emotional experience by taking them to a very convincing and different world.
Here are some of the highlights from his interview:
How virtual reality based storytelling is different from filmmaking?
From a very long time people have been talking about VR replacing films, but it is not going to happen anytime soon. “It may replace how people decide to spend their time but they are two different art forms and most people who work in virtual reality and filmmaking are aware that trying to blend them will not work,” said Aronofsky.
Aronofsky feels the experiences created by VR and films are very different. When you are watching a movie you not only watch the character but you also feel how the character is feeling because of empathy. Aronofsky remarks this is a great thing about filmmaking,“It is a great part of filmmaking that you can sit there and you can through close-up enter the subjective experience of the character who takes you on a journey where you are basically experiencing what the character is going through.”
In virtual reality, on the other hand, very less character is involved. It is very experiential and instead of being transferred into another person’s shoes you are much more yourself.
How technology is affecting filmmaking in a better way?
One of the biggest breakthroughs enabled by these technologies, according to Aronofsky, is allowing filmmakers to shape their ideas into exactly how they want. He points out that unlike the 70s and 80s, when there were only few “Gandalfs” like Spielberg and George Lucas who were using computers for creating experiences, now computers can be used by anybody to create amazing visual effects, animations, and much more. “Use of computers have unlocked the possibilities of what we can do and what type of stories we can tell,” he added.
Technologies such as AI and VR has enabled filmmakers and writers to write and create extremely complicated sequences that otherwise would have taken several human hours. He says, “Machines has given many more ways of looking at the material.”
Is there any dark side of using these technologies?
Though technology is providing different ways of telling stories, there can be situations where its influence is too much. Aronofsky remarked that there are some filmmakers who have lost control over the use of technology in their films, which has resulted into “visual effects extravaganza”.
The huge teams working on these projects focus more on visual effects instead of the storytelling part of filmmaking. But at the same time, there are some filmmakers who know exactly where to draw the line between virtual and reality, giving their audiences beautiful movies to enjoy. “But there are filmmakers like James Cameron who are in control of everything and creating a vision where every single shot is chosen in if it is in virtual setting or in a real setting”, says the moviemaker.
On the question of whether AI could replace humans in filmmaking or storytelling, he feels that current technologies are not mature enough to be able to actually understand what the character is feeling. He says, “It’s a terrifying thought… When jokes and humor and stories start to be able to reproduced where you can’t tell the difference between them and the human counterparts is a strange moment… Storytelling is a tricky thing and I am going to be a bit of a Luddite now and put my faith in the constant invention of individuals to do something that a computer won’t.”
Does data influences a filmmaker’s decisions?
Nowadays every decision is data-driven. Online streaming services tracks each click and swipe to understand user preferences. But, Aronofsky believes that you cannot predict the future even if you have access to so much data. Maybe the popularity of the actors or the locations can help but currently we do not have a fixed formula to predict how much success a film will see.
Technologies like AI and VR are helping filmmakers to create visual effects, helping them in digital editing, and all in all have enabled them to put no limits on their imagination.
Watch Darren Aronofsky’s full talk at Web Summit 2018: