Eyefilm is an experimental 3D film that attempts to create more accurate subjective camera by taking into account the physiology of the eye-sight and advantages of virtual camera. It is the result of research of user interaction and spatial perception in virtual 3D world. As the experiment to create new level of immersion, the eye-tracking hardware and software was used to create unique semiosphere for this particular environment and to offer a glimpse of virtual interactivity in a medium film.
Subjective camera and its recognized flaws from other films made in this aesthetic are used as apparatus to allegorize phenomenon and effects of consumerism. The imposed feelings of passivity, alienation, loss of control and disorientation are used as metaphor for modern consumer questioning his freedom of choice in front of manipulative influences of media and advertisements. The main character spawns in natural environment and through contact with media advances to more luxurious but also to more sterile and artificial version of the same environment. With technological extensions, human capacities get reduced, making one less of a life’s active participant and more a passive observer. This notion culminates at the end of film as he realizes the perfection was an illusion, gets merged into his world and turns into a house plant.
The camera motion was made in three phases: In the first phase the house was presented as first-person-shooter game. Test subjects could navigate through the house at will. Their movements were recorded with a script and used afterwards to create animation that was rendered as panoramic film. In the second phase, the animation from previous phase was presented as a projected film to the second group of test subjects, while their eye-movements were recorded with eye-tracking equipment. In the third phase, collected data was used to algorithmically create final saccadic camera motion.
The apartment was presented in the game-like manner, where the first test group could navigate through 3D apartment space using mouse and cursor keys as in any FPS (First-Person-Shooter) game. After the situation which the character was facing has been explained, each group member was given a control to inspect the apartment while the script was recording their avatar’s movements. This data was averaged between all recordings, and was used to produce final camera motion through space.
After the camera motion was determined, sequence was rendered in wide angle view and presented to the members of the second group equipped with eye-tracking device.
Eye-tracking setup was made using infrared camera, infrared light source and a 200 cm projection screen. Open-source software ITU Gaze tracker was used to analyze eye-motion in real-time. Each member of the sample audience was presented with an image sequence rendered in the wide angle/panoramic view and their eye-movement was recorded with open source software iComponent. After recording points-of-interest of each member, the eye-movement was averaged and used to determine camera’s target fixation points in 3D space.
The result was that 7 out of 12 people had very similar eye movements during the whole length of presented sequences. The eye movements have been transferred to virtual camera after averaging the tracking results. By extrapolation, 58% of the future audience would have similar eye movements and thus virtual feeling of control in the medium that does not provide it.
The eye-tracking hardware and software were used as device for merging Umwelts of multiple persons, and creating transparent Semiosphere for this particular film.
The main character wakes up in a large apartment on the riverside with relatively modest looking interior. While looking around to see if he is alone he finds an advertisement clipping for a large screen TV. By picking it up the earth starts shaking and suddenly he finds himself in an updated version of that apartment. Simple wooden and textile furniture is replaced with more modern and more expensive looking leather furniture, large swimming pool appears in the front yard, and the TV from the advertisement is where the aquarium was. He tries to leave the apartment, but the moment he passes through the door another earthquake happens and he realizes that this door does not exist anymore and he cannot go back. He is now in the same house but instead on riverside, it is now on the tropical shore. Apartment is again updated with more expensive designer furniture. In this version of the world almost everything is artificial – the aquarium from the first level is now only a screensaver on computer screens; his front yard from the first level has became a golf course on a golf simulator; instead of the plasma TV there is an interactive TV in the form of a holographic shopping totem. He does not resist temptation to take the remote controller off the sofa which triggers another quake, and from this point on he is not moving through his world but through his mental representation of the world. Going to the doors he sees a glimpse of what the next version of the apartment would look like – it’s only one room with Virtual Reality Head-Mounted-Display. Deciding not to go through this door he tries to open second door but it is too late to open it as the broken doorknob came off in his hand. Frustrated and without options he throws the doorknob in the panoramic window looking at the seaside. As the window breaks he realizes that there is a brick wall behind it and that the perfect vista is just an illusion! Retreating in disbelief, he crumples in the corner as another earthquake happens and he turns into a houseplant.
The plot is divided into 4 “levels”, each representing deeper level of consumerism. The main character starts in natural environment and through contact with media advances to more luxurious but also to more sterile and artificial version of the same environment. The interior changes gradually from modest one with wooden furniture and laminate floor, to the expensive leather furniture, chrome and granite finishing in the third level. TV set, as the symbol of consumerist society, grows through stages, and is also used to trigger first change of stages when character finds newspaper advertisement for large screen TV. With each new stage, character’s apartment is more luxurious, but at the same time it becomes emptier – with each change, there are less dining chairs, sectional sofas are replaced with individual sofas and at the end with only one sofa, representing degradation of the social life in modern societies.
At the beginning of the 4th level, character is not moving any more through his materialistic world, but he is moving through his mental map of that world. This is shown by fixing camera in space and rotating the apartment around the character.
Throughout the film, character is in conflict as he tries to get out to the nature, but at the same time he is drawn to material possessions while creating his perfect world around himself. As he is getting more distanced from the nature, his human interactions and reality are being replaced with virtual reality. With technological ‘extensions’, human capacities get reduced, making one less of a life’s active participant and more a passive observer. This notion culminates at the end of film as he gets merged into his world and turns into a house plant. Plant is here a metaphor for a modern consumer; it is a relatively passive life form, exposed and helpless to the outside influences as the man is helpless to media influences and new social imposed values. Consumer is owned by his material possessions.
European Premiere: Backup Kurzfilmfestival, Germany
US Premiere: Zeitgeist Media Festival - LA, US