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Creating VR Musical ‘Say It With Music’

A beautifully choreographed display of singing and dancing is coming to a headset near you.

There’s no shortage of innovative VR films out in the wild. In just the last couple of years talented filmmakers from around the globe have already amassed an impressive catalogue of groundbreaking 360° short films that have helped set an industry standard for future creators.

We’ve seen everything from high-quality animated shorts produced by acclaimed studios, to experimental art pieces from famous organizations such as Cirque De Soleil. However one genre has been relatively overlooked, having yet to receive a proper VR rendition: the musical. That’s why your most anticipated VR film will inevitably be the upcoming 360-degree ‘toe-tapping’ short, Say It With Music.

Part of a collaboration between students spread across 17 programs of the Savannah College of Art & Design, Say It With Music is a charming four minute musical that uses the immersion to deliver a memorable experience that’s as captivating as it is engaging. The plot is deceptively simple: “Simone, a timid waitress, uses music as an instrument of change to revive a monotonous fine dining restaurant and enliven its stuffy owner, Gustavo. Throughout the evening, Simone discovers she has an unexpected connection with an upbeat waiter named Nathan, who shares her lyrical passion.”

Inspired by legendary composer and lyricist Irving Berlin, the ambitious project was based around the idea innovating storytelling in VR. One of the ways they go about this was by crafting a story where even the extras are considered supporting cast. Say It With Music does away with the conventional format of ‘starring roles’ by leading us through a plot that follows an entire group of characters as opposed to merely one or two. In fact, the experience actually guides the audience through the interlocking stories of 36 different individuals. Each character has their own specific story to follow, making this an experience you’ll want to enjoy over and over again. It’s the details in the set and characters that bring an extra level of immersion to the enthralling musical adventure.

“The replayability factor of this is interesting,” says project director and SCAD graduate Joshua Howard. “Because while the film may only last four minutes, if you want to watch every story arc and uncover all the details, it might be a 45-minute experience.”

The entire musical escapade was created within 10 months using a combination of 360° video equipment and creative filmmaking techniques. Shot at ‘Gryphon,’ a lovely SCAD café located in Savannah, Georgia, Joshua and his crew used five Sony FS7 cameras and six GoPros to capture every bit of action in 4K resolution. The crew did their best to maintain the elegance of the space by utilizing practical lighting, covering reflective surfaces and rearranging/replacing onset decór. The post production team then digitally removed visible equipment such as the camera tripod and dolly by using layered photographs to rebuild those particular spaces.

Say It With Music is currently making its festival run, but a full public release is expected in the near future. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long. After watching La La Land for the 3rd time I could seriously use a new experience to dance like an idiot to. Check out a behind-the-scenes video to get a taste for yourself:

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