Vancouver, Canada, September 24, 2020 – At the intersection of gaming, virtual reality, cinema and medieval Japan is the new VR film “GEIMU” (pronounced “ɡeɪ-moo” which is “game” in Japanese) which was produced by independent filmmaker Dorian Goto Stone and is having its festival world premiere at Vancouver International Film Festival as a finalist in the cinematic VR category. Combining real action with game-like visual effects in live-action virtual reality, GEIMU takes the vicarious fun of watching an expert gamer play a role-playing game (RPG) and spins it into a cinematic story that you get to experience from the literal point of view of the main character.
There is plenty of action in the first person perspective including sword fighting with ninjas, riding a galloping horse, fending off zombies and encountering Japanese mythical creatures called kappa who love cucumbers. This is all accomplished without causing motion sickness, which is often a problem that plagues VR films.
Synopsis: Emi, played by Aimi Sekiguchi a Japanese VR performance artist and YouTuber, is an expert gamer who with the help of her reluctant pal Hiroshi hacks together her AI device (like a Google Home or Amazon Alexa) with her VR gaming console so that she can play in a VR game world created by AI. The world she and Hiroshi enter is set in medieval Japan and they are samurai tasked with saving a princess. Although it starts out like a typical RPG game with plenty of sword fighting action, the game starts to glitch and gets progressively stranger. It appears that the AI may have plans of its own, which leads to a shocking final climax.
Production: GEIMU is an independent VR film produced, written, directed and edited by independent filmmaker Dorian Goto Stone at a fraction of the cost of most VR films currently in the market and unlike most VR films which are computer animated, GEIMU is live-action. The project was made possible by Google and VRScout’s VR180 Lab, a program that provided training and resources to filmmakers to make VR180 videos for YouTube. Additional funding was provided out-of-pocket by Dorian Goto Stone.
Filmed on location in Japan, over 50 local cast and crew were part of the production. It was important to the director to faithfully serve Japanese period piece conventions such as mannerisms, speech and wardrobe specific to Japanese period pieces. The veteran sword fight choreographer, the wardrobe advisor, the creature specialist and over a dozen actors trained in sword fighting, collectively brought decades of period piece experience to the production. The final result is a work that achieves a production value several times its budget (US$50K).
The film is in 5.7K resolution and stereoscopic 3D VR180 (the images in the left and right eye are unique so you get true three dimensionality). The film’s audio is a vital part of the experience containing both ambisonic audio aka spatial audio – the orientation of the sound changes as you move your head – and head-locked stereo (the game’s soundtrack and Emi’s voice). The film is in Japanese with English subtitles.
Production Team (Highlights): GEIMU was written, directed, produced and edited by Dorian Goto Stone, a Japanese-American filmmaker based in Japan. The cinematographer and co-producer is Tomoaki Iwakura JSC, a veteran Director of Photography on feature films and commercials working in both LA and Japan. The Associate Producer and POV (point-of-view) action star is Kouken Sugiura, a Japanese actor, traditional horseback archer and martial artist. The film stars Aimi Sekiguchi, an international VR artist and performer and YouTuber as Emi, with co-star Katsuyuki Miyake, a Japanese actor with Asaikikaku Talent Agency, as Hiroshi. Sword fight choreography was done by Masaki Komatsu, a veteran of the film industry in Japan and a specialist in ninja weapon fighting. Spatial sound design was done by Masato Ushijima of Sonologic-Design. Special effects makeup was provided by Mari Idaka. The original score was composed by Masanori Otsuka. The VR Lab mentor was Makoto Hirose (SeaPics Japan, Inc.).
Where to watch it: GEIMU will be viewable on six platforms for free from Sept. 24 at 12pm PDT to Oct. 7: Amaze VR, Littlstar, Museum of Other Realities, Oculus TV, VeeR, and the VIFF Immersed YouTube 360 Channel. You can watch it in your PC-connected or standalone Head Mount Display (HMD) or on your smartphone using the YouTube app and a Google Cardboard. You can also enjoy the films without a headset.
Makoto Hirose, Google and VR Scout VR180 Lab Mentor: “The story, the visuals, the spatial audio – everything is perfect. It’s one of the best projects to come out of the VR Lab. Ninjas, a daimyo (samurai warlord), kappas (mythical creatures) and zombies. Welcome to the strange world of GEIMU. This is a monumental work of VR. For viewers it is a superb experience and for creators it shows the possibilities. The HMD was made for watching content like this.”
Masato Ushijima (Sonologic-Design), GEIMU Sound Designer and Engineer: “A common challenge in works of virtual reality is the lack of an audio experience that corresponds to your visual one. Ambisonic audio in a virtual reality film that is 23 minutes long is truly groundbreaking (most vr contents with ambisonic audio are much shorter). This means you can have a deeply immersive narrative experience. This is the way that virtual reality was meant to be experienced and I hope you enjoy it.”
Dorian Goto Stone, GEIMU Writer, Director, Editor, Producer: “GEIMU is a film experience in which cinema, virtual reality and gaming intersect. By using elements of traditional narrative structure in a virtual reality setting, we strove to create a seamless, immersive and well paced narrative experience that transports you into the story as a character. While the story takes place in a game world, we specifically chose not to ‘burden’ the viewer with having to make any decisions. The story can be enjoyed passively like a traditional film but because many of the scenes contain a lot of action or other activity across the 180 degree visible area, multiple viewings are rewarded with new discoveries each time.”
Dorian Goto Stone, GEIMU Writer, Director, Editor, Producer: “Video games now have these incredible, immersive sprawling worlds with elaborate narratives like big budget Hollywood films or tv shows. With GEIMU I wanted to capture the excitement and fascination you feel as you enter a game world for the first time. How cool would it be if you could experience first hand a live-action version of your video game? If that game is a mystical medieval Japanese game world, now you can.”
Dorian Goto Stone, GEIMU Writer, Director, Editor, Producer: “For over a century cinema has been experienced as a glowing rectangle but now with virtual reality, those boundaries are gone. There are already so-called rules about what to do and what not to in VR but I think it is far too early for that. This is uncharted territory, and I look forward to seeing the format continuously evolve. I hope that you enjoy this unique and thrilling cinematic VR experience.”
About the filmmaker:
Dorian Goto Stone
Dorian Goto Stone is an American Japanese-American filmmaker, born and raised in NYC, with over a dozen years of experience working and living in Japan. He is fluent in Japanese and the culture is an inseparable part of his identity and life. He began his career in New York as a freelance filmmaker shooting, directing and producing a variety of content across television, web, independent film and theatre.
From 2012 to 2018 he worked for Google where he launched and ran the YouTube Space in Tokyo, the third YouTube Space to open in the world. He developed a broad range of educational programs, events and programs serving thousands of creators from all over Japan and the world.
In 2018, he returned to his passion, filmmaking. He is currently working as a freelance director and producer in Japan in both traditional video/film and live-action VR.
About VIFF Immersed: VIFF Immersed Exhibition Sept. 24 – Oct. 7, 2020 The VIFF Immersed Exhibition showcases the world’s leading narrative-driven, export-ready immersive entertainment for the public to explore. This year, the Exhibition will reach the widest global audience ever for a VR film festival making content available for viewing across multiple platforms. The films, in the categories of animation, documentary and cinematic VR, include the 12 finalists from the International VIFF Immersed Competition as well as a showcase of XR content produced in the province of British Columbia, home to the 2nd largest XR ecosystem in the world. This year’s VIFF IMMERSED will host and exhibit selections from around the globe and includes 3 World Premiers, 7 North American Premiers and 2 Canadian Premiers. The VIFF Immersed Exhibition is free for everyone to access and is held across Amaze VR, Littlstar, Museum of Other Realities, Oculus TV, VeeR, and the VIFF Immersed YouTube 360 Channel.There are options for the content to be viewed with or without a Virtual Reality headset, so everyone can enjoy!
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