I, Philip

"I, Philip", cinema quality in a virtual reality headset

AIRPORT. Originally, there is the truthful story of a robot lookalike of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Conceived in 2005 by the Americans of Hanson Robotics, the android was supposed to be presented to Google employees, but his head got lost in airports and was never found… Pierre Zandrowicz, creative director of the production company FatCat Films, had drawn from the anecdote a script for a feature film. The project never came to fruition. On the other hand, having become co-founder of Okio Studio, he made I, Philip, a 14-minute short fiction film in virtual reality (VR), which is beginning to have its small reputation.

First distributed via the Arte360 mobile app and on the Oculus platform, I, Philip was presented at the Paris Virtual Film Festival in mid-June and, more recently, at the VR Arles Festival where it won the audience award. The story ? The mind of Philip K. Dick having been implanted in a robot with the image of the writer, this one, named Phil, interacts with humans … before pouring into paranoia and evoking memories that we do not know if they are real or fantasized. Anyway, we’re at Philip K. Dick’s ! Pierre Zandrowicz :

“With the initial script, we had a problem : it is difficult to empathize with a robot. So we never made the film. But we had the idea of turning from the point of view of the robot’s head, in virtual reality. »

I, Philip is in fact entirely made up of sequence plans in subjective view. This is not a first in the history of cinema (see The Lady of the Lake in 1947 or The Woman Defended in 1997), but virtual reality adds another dimension : not only does the viewer occupy the place of the robot, but he also directs his gaze where he wants, when he wants, becoming himself the character and creating his own montage. Some dialogued passages have even been staged in such a way as to encourage the viewer to reconstruct a field-counterchamp.

ETRETAT. The fact remains that the director insisted on a cinema quality, with actors, real sets (local of the Esigelec engineering school in Rouen, Etretat beach at sunset), and avoiding the GoPro texture. Spherical images were not even obtained by a 360°camera. These are montages of several shots filmed one after the other, the camera being shifted each time to change angle. Sometimes with an additional constraint : the actors appearing side by side in the final result were filmed separately. A process that required five months of post-production, but which was essential for the director and the crew to remain on the set during the shooting. Which would have been impossible if the 360° plane had been captured in one piece.

To add to the heaviness of the device, I, Philip was made with two Red Dragon 4k digital cameras attached to each other in order to obtain stereoscopy. The film is indeed in 3D, a format essential to an immersive project according to Pierre Zandrowicz, because simulating the human vision.

“We wanted to elicit emotions in virtual reality more than the thrills of immersive roller coaster experiences, for example.”Except that playing a character in a film is not trivial and that finding yourself on a hospital bed crossing the gaze of a crying woman can have its small effect… Even if all this happens only in the head of a paranoid robot.

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