Taylor Steele’s latest movie, “Proximity,” will have its worldwide premiere on May 4, in New York. The film’s official website describes “Proximity” as “a visceral portrait of modern surfing” and indeed the offering certainly is modern. The movie uses the latest technology in terms not just of filming and photography but also includes elements of virtual reality to offer the viewer a unique experience when they attend events being held in conjunction with its different release dates on its tour around the globe.

Surfing Stars Gather

Without giving too much away, “Proximity” follows the lives of eight world-class surfers in different locations around the world, with each looking to find the next big wave as well as meaningful moments in the different destinations. Taylor Steele has joined up four surf legends with four rising surf stars in the film, which is played out across the four seasons. “Proximity” follows a different pair of surfers during each part of the year, in Baja (California), Chile, Northern Europe and the South Pacific. Its cast comprises of 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and John John Florence (spring), six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and David Rastovich (summer), multiple WSL Big Wave Award Winner Shane Dorian and Albee Layer (fall) and, finally, Rob Machado and Craig Anderson (winter). It took 18 months to shoot and is Steele’s first new movie in four years. 


$10,000 per Minute: The Cost of Using VR in Film

Aside from the unique pairings and some of the lesser-known locations (at one point for example Anderson ends up in snow, a far different environment to ‘Innersection,” in which he collaborated with the film’s director), “Proximity” offers more than the traditional cinema experience. In each of the eight places where the film was shot, a short virtual reality film was also produced. The use of virtual reality elements alongside the more traditional cinematic footage reflects the rise of virtual reality in today’s world, which aims to give users more unique and authentic experiences than ever before. VR is no more just the stuff of science-fiction that made the plots of films like “Disclosure” (1994), “Vanilla Sky” (2001) or “Avatar” (2009). A host of new films according to Wired are set to change the way we see cinema. First Life, narrated by David Attenborough for example will take viewer 500 million years back in time to explore the sea floor (which no doubt looked very different to that in the recent Plastic Ocean documentary). Such experiences aren’t cheap to create though, with one minute of footage costing an estimated $10,000 to produce. On balance, this may be worth it as a film like Tron Legacy, which also used virtual reality, has grossed over $400 million worldwide, suggesting it may be a good return on investment.


A Virtual Reality Revolution

Film is not the only sector to be using virtual reality to great effect though. According to Forbes it is set to revolutionize the gaming, real estate and travel sectors to name just a few. In terms of gaming, there has been an increase in the use of virtual reality in recent years, reflected most recently by the launch of the PlayStation VR, which sold nearly 1 million units in its first four months. There are also smartphone-powered headsets including Google Cardboard, Samsung’s Gear VR and Zeiss VR One. This latter option allows users to take part in a moon landing via the Apollo 11 VR Experience game as well as hike up mountains around the globe in The Climb. VR hasn’t quite made it yet in the online casino sector, but the closest experience is offered through live streaming. On the Betway site blackjack and baccarat players can talk to a live dealer, watch them deal out the cards and interact with other players at the table. The next step for games like this could be to use virtual reality to allow objects such as chips to be moved as well as to feel the roll of the dice during a game of craps. 

In the real estate and travel sectors the online experience has already been extended by some companies. Offering 360-degree views of properties on estate agents’ sites isn’t enough anymore, as companies such as Sotheby’s are trialling VR to showcase their portfolio and let potential buyers actually walk through their properties. The UK-based Walton & Allen agency for example have had 4,000 views and 3 sales generated by their VR tours just two months after setting them up. In the travel world, it is already possible to travel the face of Mount Everest, including its most famous locations such as Base Camp. A tour of the Grand Canyon is also within reach from the comfort of one’s home, complete with rafting and fishing. As for the less adventurous, they can ride a gondola in Venice with the Unreal Engine 4

A Virtual Future?

Alongside the uses of virtual reality outlined above, it is also being used extensively in the healthcare professions and construction sector, where real-life mistakes could be costly, so instead simulated scenarios are created for users to learn from and develop their skills with. This means that whether “Proximity” sets a precedent for filmgoers with its use of virtual reality or not, there is little doubt that you will be coming in contact with it more and more in the future as it enters into different aspects of our everyday life.