The Heroes of Experimental Theater and Virtual Reality
Want to shoot 360 videos but don’t have a 360 camera? Croatian modern theater group Ateatar proved it’s entirely possible. Set in black and white, Heroes of Night and Tragic features the protagonist who invites his friends along for an experiment where they’re enclosed in a shoebox. Having been turned down by all of them, he finds himself inexplicably situated in a contraption where his interactions with the outside world are framed in panels. This leads to a mysterious series of mishaps where his doppelganger barges in with murderous intent.
The name “Ateatar” was inspired by one of the two words in the Croatian language for theater, ‘kazalište’ and ‘teatar’. Prefixing ‘a’ to ‘teatar’ stands for their relation to theater that is open to interpretation: the most common is negation, expressing their opposition to traditional theater.
In their logo, the word ‘ateatar’ is half inside a burning house. This embodies the form of art Ateatar tries to achieve: an aesthetic experience should be like being stranded in a burning house, and observing it from outside at the same time. This is also what VR epitomizes: the viewers are getting “virtual” experiences that are essentially duplicates of what comes first-hand to some.
The inspiration for Heroes, as Bruno from Ateatar told us, is basically a problem-solving procedure. Being without a 360 camera and wanting to do a 360 project, Ateatar used a Samsung Galaxy S6 built-in camera and turned their initial disadvantages to the biggest strengths of their video. The final rendition is produced through a sketch filter, and pieced together as different sides of the shoebox with characters moving between each panel, to create a comical effect.
The shoebox itself is a concept that rejects definition. It could be about any system (state, religion, knowledge, society) that people are being caught inside of. Shoes are made for walking, and the shoebox is just the packaging that will protect the shoes until they get to the point where they’re done serving the purpose they were made for. So any system, although made for advancing to the next point, ends up being just a self-defensive contrivance, and once you are trapped inside of it, you will realize the shoes aren’t inside the box, and you’re never getting to the walking part.
There is an easter egg in the song that plays during the final scene and credits. The lyrics basically describe the source of the core conflict. Here’s how they go: Hello, it’s me, the average you./It’s been a whole life that we’ve been through/ We didn’t change, feared the unknown/ There goes our life and we have nothing to show/ Welcome to the dull.
In the short film, the ‘average you’ arrives as an intruder to claim the life of ‘trapped you’. ‘Trapped you’ does not realize the severity of the situation until their doomsayer friend is hurt. This brings about the turning point where ‘trapped you’ try to escape from the ‘average you’. Being one and the same as the ‘average you’, ‘trapped you’ somehow believes they’re different. In the final scene, ‘trapped you’ puts the knife on the ground as a way of accepting himself, but gets fatally wounded by ‘average you’ from unresolvable conflict.
Shooting on-location led to unexpected guests
According to Bruno, “Heroes” was planned in three layers/dramaturgies: interactions between characters, transitions between frames, and the methodology in which these two aspects are fitted into a virtual space. The final script and shooting plan was the result of intense communication between these three layers/dramaturgies as if intertwining three individual threads into one rope.
For editing, Ateatar picked Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus because of its ability to place 2D objects in 360 videos without distortion. The set was created by posing 6 2D videos as different sides of the shoebox. Every shot was done separately, and imported into one file.
MAGIX Movie Edit Pro Plus
Bruno told us: “It may sound funny, but – although I am director of ‘theatre’ company – I don’t like theatre at all. I tolerate it as the opportunity to create worlds and stories and to materialize ideas in some form. I don’t love film as art either, it’s just OK and has many brilliant works to offer. But, when I first came across VR, I immediately fell in love with it.”
Heatmap for “Heroes” in VeeR analytics
The current age where VR is still at an early stage that any creator might put their own weight on increasing its momentum and developing it into an art, is quite “romantic” for Bruno. Similar to the ghost cities of China that await citizens to populate them, Ateatar has taken their first step in making a contribution to populate the ghost cities of VR.
For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/ateatar/.