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Kaohsiung VR Film Lab 2019: An Interview with Director Kao Yi-chun 高逸軍

18 October 2019

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Kaohsiung VR Film Lab 2019: An Interview with Director Kao Yi-chun 高逸軍

(Film still from The Abandoned Deity)

Interview by Chng Ying Tong

In The Abandoned Deity《落難神像》, the short VR animation film brings the audience back into the mood of 1980s Taiwan and the common practice of deity worship – through the eyes of a deity statue. This 15 minutes short film is director Kao Yi-chun’s first venture into the world of Virtual Reality (VR) and he hints at more to come after the film’s premiere at the 2019 Kaohsiung Film Festival. 

We got the chance to speak with the director about his use of VR and what he thinks will be the future of this relatively new medium: 


(Film still from The Abandoned Deity)

When did you start working on The Abandoned Deity?

Actually, I started working on this subject matter from as early as 2017. But at that time, I was writing a script for traditional media, with a more traditional form of animation in mind. I also wanted the audience to be involved in the role, but I just couldn’t find any way to make the audience feel from a first-person perspective. Later, after a commercial VR work ended in 2018, I thought about using this kind of expression method to express my original subject matter. It seemed to fit. After that, I got Kaohsiung Film and the financing of the National Culture and Arts Foundation to make this VR short film.

你是什麼時候開始做《落難神像》?

其實這個題材它最早是在2017年的時候就開始有寫這個題材。可是那時候是用平面, 比較傳統動畫形態的表現方式去寫這腳本。可是我也想讓觀眾投入到角色的心態,但就是一直找不到有什麼方式可以讓觀眾更第一人稱地去感受。後來在2018年結束了一個比較商業性VR作品後,就想說用這樣子的表現手法來表現我原來那個題材。好像也很適合。那是就得到了高雄拍和國家文化藝術基金會的補助來做這個VR短片。

How long did it take for this VR animation film to be made?

The art design already existed when we got the funding. If we don’t include that, it took about a year.

你們制作這個動畫 VR花了大概多久的時間?

美術設定是在拿到補助之間就有了。那如果不加前面的美術設計,大概是差不多一年的時間。

Please give us an introduction of your short film.

I mainly wanted to show the atmosphere during the 1980s and our people’s approach towards folk belief and worship. The main reason for using VR as a medium was to allow people to think from another perspective, to feel from the perspective of the deity emblem. I used a family to let the audience feel the changes in the family dynamics from the perspective of a deity emblem and to highlight that our folk belief is a kind of worship to the deity emblem. In fact, in Southeast Asia, the treatment of the deity emblems is the same. This is also observed in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Such emblems still exist in present day. 

請介紹一下您這部短片。

我主要想表現我們80年代那個時候的氛圍和我們人對民間信仰跟崇拜的一個表現。主要是用VR的這種媒體想要讓大家可以換位思考,用神像的視角去感受。那我是用一個家庭讓觀眾可以用神像視角去感受一個家庭的變化然後來突顯我們民間信仰的一個神像崇拜。東南亞其實對神像也是一樣。新加坡,馬來西亞和香港都很明顯。就連現在也還有雕像這種事情。

(Photo of director)

Looking back at your experience in making this VR film, have you ever thought about any areas which you would want to improve on?

For VR, if the camera is moving, people who are usually not used to it will feel motion sickness. Because we used motion capture, there is no way to limit the actor and tell him to not move at a specific part, so what is captured of him will more or less move a little. We spent a lot of time trying to solve this problem later during post-production. If the actor moves just a little more, it will create vertigo. Some people pointed out that in the film, the process of bringing the idol up was dizzying.

回顧過去你在做VR的時候的經驗,你有沒有想過有什麼地方想去改進的?

VR若攝影機有在動, 通常比較不適應的人是會暈眩。因為我們是用motion capture,所以有些東西沒有辦法限制演員說哪裡不要動,因此他鏡頭多少會有移動。我們後期在解決這個問題的時候其實花滿多時間的。如果演員他的動作稍微多一點,可能會造成暈眩。有人說影片中把神像拿上去的過程會暈眩。

Were there any challenges during the process of shooting this VR?

I think whether it’s live action or animation, the challenge is the quality of the picture. In fact, we all say that 10K and 8K are the most basic. Because once we cross that, the pixel count is very low. We have to make sure that the picture quality is 10K or even stereo dimensions, so that picture quality pixel count is very large. Technique wise, I think it’s almost the same as the 2D or CG animation. In terms of picture quality, the pixel count also needs to be so high. So this time we used a game engine called “Unreal”, which is a little faster in processing, so the burden is not so heavy.

在拍攝這個VR的過程中有沒有面臨什麼樣的挑戰?

我覺得現在不管是實拍或者是動畫,挑戰都是畫質吧。我們其實都會說10K、8K是最基本的。因為跨過之後,其實那個像素是非常low的。一定要把畫質撐到10K或甚至是stereo的立體,所以那個畫質算圖量非常大。技術上我覺和原本的平面或者CG animation的技術上其實都差不多。在畫質上,算圖也需要算到這麼高。所以這次我們是用一種遊戲引擎 ”Unreal“,它的算圖稍微快一點所以負擔比較沒有那麼大。

(Film still from The Abandoned Deity)

There was a drowning scene in the film. Why is there such a scene?

Because water is symbolic in the film. When you face the death of a loved one, there will be this feeling of drowning. I wanted to express that VR has a special spatiality to it, and you can use that sense of space to design. Until the end, when the protagonist drives his car to the port of Kaohsiung, there is a sense of opening up when the water became the sea. The whole film is a more of a symbolic performance.

在影片中我們看到有一個畫面是溺水的場景,會有這個scene的原因是?

因為水在影片中是有象徵性的。當你面對親人過世後怎麼樣的時候,其實他就是會有一種溺水感。然後我希望說,其實VR有個特別的空間感。而你可以去運用那個空間感來設計。一直到最後,主角把車開到港口高雄港,有一種比較開闊的感覺,水變成海。整個是一個比較符號性的表現。

Since you completed this VR film, are you working on other VR / AR / MR pieces?

At the moment, we are working on an AR piece. Because the main element of this film is about how to build the totem. It starts from chiseling wood to painting wires and connecting wires. We really had actors to learn from actual masters. And the AR we are working on this time follows the production process of that master. We used green screens, and this 4D view technology that has been brought into Taiwan. We’ll use that technology to film on the spot and turn it into an AR. This AR is installed at the P3 warehouse and the audience is welcome to watch it.

自從你做這VR影片之後,你有在做其他的VR/AR/MR的作品嗎?

我們目前有個就是做AR的。因為我們這影片主要的元素是粧佛。就是從鑿木頭到上漆線,牽線的圖騰,我們真的有找演員去跟師傅學習。而我們這次做的AR是把那個師傅的製作過程。我們使用了綠棚, 還有使用台灣現在有引進一個4D view的技術。用那個在現場拍然後變成AR。這個AR現在有設在P3倉庫,讓觀眾用看的。

What do you think of the role of VR in telling narratives?

I think VR is still slightly different from movies.

It will not replace traditional cinemas because the language is not the same, and the way of audience viewing is not the same. Many VR technologies, such as interaction, will give the audience a sense of realistic experience. I think it’s closer to games actually. In the future, the line will become more and more blurred. Anyway, VR is used to let the feeling of entering a virtual world grow stronger. Whatever narration depends on whether the creator wants to try it.

那你如何看待VR敘述扮演的角色?

我覺得VR跟電影還是不太一樣。

它不會去取代原來的電影院因為語言不一樣,觀眾觀看的方式也不一樣。VR很多技術,比如說互動,比較會讓觀眾有一種體驗感。我覺得跟遊戲反而比較接近。未來這個界線會越來越模糊了。反正就是讓人進入到一個虛擬的世界裡面去感受得比較強烈。敘不敘事就看創作者是不是想要去試。

(Film still from The Abandoned Deity)

Are you currently working on the next VR work?

Currently, we are starting on one with a more science fiction theme. We’ll need to see later if we can develop the story and VR at the same time.

你目前有在發展下一步VR作品嗎?

現在有一個在同時開發的是一個比較科幻的題材。然後就要看能不能讓故事和VR同時開發。

You started doing animation before going into VR. Did you feel that there were aspects that were more difficult or different? 

In terms of animation, I think the technical aspects are almost the same. Whether it’s using software or the technicalities, there isn’t much difference. On the contrary, it’s the pre-production process that requires more thought.

The first would be to consider whether the topic or the theme you want to express is suitable for VR. I think that is more important. How do you go about with this is almost completely part of pre-production. The bigger difference is that when filming traditional films, we don’t have to consider much about the audience. Because there are many techniques [that can be employed]. There’s composition, there’s lens, there’s close-up, there’s editing. But for VR, there is actually less cutting up of scenes. So that’s why in the early stages of planning, you’ll need to think about how to guide the audience or what to say to catch the audience’s attention. This is different from traditional films or animations.

你從做animation來到VR,有沒有覺得什麼方面比較困難或不一樣?

如果是以animation來講的話,我覺得技術上幾乎都差不多。不管是使用軟體或是技術,其實不會差太多。反而是前製的時候,要多去思考。

第一就是這個題材或你想要表達主題適不適合VR。我覺得這個比較重要。你要怎麼去引導這件事情幾乎都是前製的工作。差別比較大就是因為我們不管是拍傳統電影或者怎麼樣,其實它不太會考慮觀眾。因為手法很多嘛。有構圖,有鏡頭,還有特寫,還有剪接。可是VR其實比較少剪接成一場一場的。所以可能前期你在規劃的時候,要想怎麼去引導觀眾或者要說什麼能夠抓住觀眾。這個是跟傳統的影片或動畫比較不一樣的地方。


Here more about what the director has to say in the behind-the-scenes interview and watch the trailer of The Abandoned Deity:

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