No Money or Time to Travel? Discovery's New VR Series Wants to Fix That

November 17, 2017

Addison O'Dea, writer and director of the new virtual reality show "Discovery TRVLR," discussed how his team used VR on the series.

The show takes "travelers" across the globe with help from a virtual reality headset.

O'Dea discusses the impact the technology has on the art of filmmaking and how immersive the experience becomes for both the subject and the viewer.

He calls a virtual reality camera a "truth machine" adding that it forces him as a director to almost take a backseat in the process because it captures things as they happen.

He shared the process of casting for the show, as each episode follows a different person with a specific role in their community. The characters are labeled in the series as "explorers," "guru," and "entertainer," depending on their occupation.

O'Dea talks the future of VR when it comes to making media and his current focus on using the medium in upcoming projects.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

MALE_1: Discovery is really in a position to not only give you the opportunity to travel, but really to bring VR to the forefront of how people naturally want to consume entertainment.

FEMALE_1: When you were filming this, the people in the cultures that you traveled to, did they get what was going on? Did they have questions about VR? What was their reception? What was their response?

MALE_1: They definitely had questions, right? Like they- they want to know what it is that we're bringing to them, right? And it's a very short path between questions and them getting really excited about the fact that the VR camera is really, you know, people will call that a empathy machine, but really what it is, is it is more of a truth machine. Because once that camera is rolling, my ability to effect change is negated. I can't tell them to do anything, it's simply as it really happens. So, uh, how they're represented, right? And how people learn about their culture and where they live is entirely true.

FEMALE_2: Awesome. As someone who's been telling stories for quite some time, I mean, which method do you prefer? Do you prefer being able to have that sort of experience in VR? Or do you like the more traditional sort of linear model of shooting with a camera?

MALE_1: So o- o- obviously I'm really in love with VR at the moment because I'm really excited about the show. Um, it's- it really depends on the stories that we're telling. But for traveler and really when we want to juxtapose all these different cultures against one another, VR really creates something that you can't get in linear broadcast.

FEMALE_1: One location- e- is there one location that was easier than others to film in VR?

MALE_1: No [OVERLAPPING].

FEMALE_1: That is more enriching, that was- just uh- it was a better place that will lend itself to a VR medium? Or what was the easiest one?

MALE_1: [NOISE] Oh, I mean- VE, I mean- so, New Zealand obviously, you know, English is the lingua franca, so its very easy to film there because there's no language barrier, right?

FEMALE_1: Right.

MALE_1: Um, the deeper we get into the jungles of Vietnam or into the forests of Armenia or higher up in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, you know, the awareness of technology.