In the summer of 2015, some lucky users of anonymous chat sites (like Chatroulette) were conscripted into a surprisingly elaborate zombie apocalypse set in an interactive real world environment.
I was surprised how much fun I had watching the apparently unsuspecting participants as they adapted to a real-life first-person shooter game.
The whole experience was created and filmed by Realm Pictures (a UK based studio).
For a more complete explanation of how and why the video was made, here is the Realm Pictures "making-of" video:
Thanks to award-winning filmmaker Jeff Orlowski for bringing this one to my attention.
The video at the top of this post is entitled Evolution of Verse.
At first glance - it's just another computer-generated landscape...
But hit play. If you're using a computer to read this, what's the little disc with arrows in the corner of the frame?
Maybe there is more to Chris Milk's video than meets the eye...
Give it a try... especially if you're unfamiliar with virtual reality ("VR").
People have been touting VR for years.
Jaron Lanier was manufacturing VR devices in the 1980s. And his company, VPL Research, was bankrupt by the 1990s.
Back then, the images lacked realism.
And even today, VR in practice is still a bit clunky - an apparently early-stage technology, that can turn off potential users who wouldn't be caught dead wearing geeky-looking isolating headsets.
And leaving aside the creepy headgear - why are the VR demonstration videos that are offered online so often so dull?
Do we really need another fan-boy recreation of Star Trek's holodeck or another vr-for-its-own-sake music video?
Nevertheless, recently several large corporations have gotten on the VR bandwagon.
For example, in 2014 Facebook acquired Oculus Rift (reportedly paying US$2 billion for that company's virtual reality technology).
Which brings us to 2015.
Working with visual effects leader Digital Domain and Annapurna Pictures, director Chris Milk created Evolution of Verse to demonstrate the potential of VR.
Like the earliest motion pictures back in the 19th century, Evolution of Verse is short - clocking in at under 4 minutes - and relatively crude.
Nevertheless, Evolution of Verse premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2015.
Part of the excitement about Evolution of Verse is that the creator, Chris Milk, has a history of innovation.
And, please know, watching any VR demonstration on a laptop doesn't give the experience its due.
If you have an iPhone, Android, Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard device, download the free app at http://www.vrse.com to get a better sense (still far from immersive - but at least a bit more naturally interactive) of what watching VR with a headset feels like.
And for filmmakers who are interested in exploring the creative possibilities, here is some interesting news:
A January 28th, 2015 post to AdAge announced that Chris Milk, Patrick Milling-Smith and Brian Carmody had teamed up to open VRSE works, "an independent production company dedicated to virtual reality-focused projects."
What are the aesthetic goals of VRSE?
According to Mr. Milling-Smith: "Up until this point, it's been all about the technologists. What we're trying to do is bring real artists and filmmakers and a sense of story and marry that with the technology."
What is the revenue model of VRSE?
"The company will work with agencies and direct-to-client on branded projects."
Will VR spin off commercially viable products?
No one can say with certainty.
But... Would you bet against it?