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ZDFneo’s VR Comedy is a Wild Metaverse Adventure

The possibility of shooting a film or television production entirely in virtual reality is a relatively new concept that has garnered significant attention in recent times.

Recently, the popular German TV series ZDFneo made headlines with their latest episode, “meta,” entirely filmed in virtual reality using a Valve Index headset and body trackers. The production team used virtual locations sourced from the social app Somnium Space as their filming locations.

Ground-breaking techniques used

One of the most thrilling aspects of this production is that it features two cameramen who were present at the VR location. Their expertly captured footage creates the illusion that the documentary’s subjects, a lower-middle-class family in Berlin, are real-life models. What’s more, the clash between the Sawadi-Kröger and Knuppe families (played by Minh-Khai Phan-Thi and Milan Peschel) unfolds both in the virtual world and in real life, creating a powerful and immersive viewing experience.

Comedic plotline

In the opening scene, Mari’s brother Brian generously gifts both families with VR headsets and invites them to explore his latest venture, a virtual exhibition of NFT artwork. However, the exhibition is only the beginning, as the plot takes a wild turn, taking viewers on a thrilling ride through the various locations in the Somnium space. The story follows Andi, a disgruntled ex-policeman who is outraged by the NFT images that have imitated his face in the bored ape style and sets out to voice his complaint in the metaverse. Meanwhile, his wife, Tracy, who has a habit of stealing valuable items, takes a painting that catches her eye. This sets off a chain of events that involves art dealers, virtual clubs, and wealthy landowners in a thrilling chase. 

While the chaos ensues, Rocco and Zoe, the family’s younger members, attempt to sneak away to a virtual concert. To truly appreciate the clever humour woven throughout this comedy episode, it’s essential to have a solid grasp of the characters, their nuances, and their quirks. The actors were only given their scripts on the day of shooting, resulting in plenty of improvisation and exaggerated performances that added depth and personality to the vibrant cast.

Cast experience

During her interview with the press, Minh-Khai Phan-Thi, an acclaimed actress, shared her insights on the challenges of working in a 3D world. She revealed that acting in a virtual environment presents unique obstacles, as no facial cues guide your performance. As a result, actors must rely solely on the script and their acting skills to bring their characters to life. Additionally, Minh-Khai noted that inaccuracies in the virtual height of certain characters could cause them to walk with a stoop during the shoot, further underscoring the difficulties of performing in a digital realm.

Dennis Schanz, the film’s director, and Christoph Mushayija Rath co-wrote the script. To ensure the best shooting locations within the Somnium space were found, Marco Budde (newVRtech), Sebastian Ang (MRTV), and William Schubert (dineXtion) acted as scouts and also assisted in organising and indexing extras and headsets. This innovative use of VR technology for shooting full-length films is a ground-breaking achievement that will inspire future directors to explore the limitless possibilities of this cutting-edge technology, resulting in awe-inspiring experiences for their audiences.

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