Boston — For over 17 years, director Angie Rowntree has been defying mainstream porn traditions with Sssh.com, a popular site featuring porn for women. Now, as she embraces virtual reality (VR), a technology many industry insiders hope will revolutionize the adult industry, Rowntree is again rejecting the typical path, eschewing the first-person point of view currently ubiquitous in VR porn in favor of an approach known as “dynamic storytelling.”
“While the VR environment does pair well with the first-person perspective (POV), it’s also limited in a lot of ways,” Rowntree said. “Once you free the viewer’s perspective from being locked into what the ‘protagonist’ is doing, so to speak, it enables the viewer to more completely explore and experience the full environment. It takes the viewer from being a passive observer to allowing them to actually experience the movie more fully.”
“In the dynamic storytelling model, the viewer is immersed in the story, but not necessarily an interactive part of it,” Rowntree explained.
“As the viewer, you’re present in the movie and immersed in the environment, but you don’t control or change the course of the story,” Rowntree said. “If the performers walk up a hillside, you get to follow them up, and look at the grass beneath your feet and the sky above you. You also get to see what’s behind you. There’s an amazing freedom of movement.”
Rowntree said she was sold on the dynamic storytelling approach after experiencing a VR film called “The Bombing of London” at the Virtual Reality Showcase held during the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas.
“The Bombing of London VR experience left a lasting impression and really emphasized the advantages of taking a more story-focused approach to VR,” Rowntree said. “At one point in the movie, I was a passenger on a subway train, just watching the people around me, when there was the sudden sound of an explosion behind me. I was truly startled, and my heart was pounding like it never has in watching a traditional film.”
Rowntree said the film also made her realize, “We were going to need not only a whole new approach to the visual aspect when shooting 360 VR movies, but we needed to approach audio completely differently as well.”
“When you’re in the VR environment and someone runs by you, the sound of their feet hitting the pavement gets louder as they get closer, and quieter again as they pull away,” Rowntree said. “Way more than in a traditional two-dimensional presentation, you really have to factor in the relationship between distance and sound in order to get the audio right.”
Rowntree said shooting a movie using the dynamic storytelling model requires a very different set of skills on the part of both the director and the performers, as “you really have to think of it as acting and directing theater, not a movie.”
“We’re still experimenting, familiarizing ourselves with the technology, and getting used to a whole new way of shooting, one which requires planning out scenes in a very different way,” Rowntree said. “The next challenge is coming up with new and different ways to take advantage of the interactive possibilities offered by VR, to make the viewer an even bigger part of the story as it unfolds.”
Sssh wrapped shooting of its first VR movie in April for release in July, with more VR creations already in production. The movie’s title is “Empowering Ava: A Virtual Reality Experience.”
“We’ve chosen a genre for the next movie which lends itself beautifully to the VR environment, and we’ve come up with some very fun and creative ways to engage the viewer in the story,” Rowntree said. “From a director’s perspective, it’s really inspiring to shoot VR content, because it forces you to adopt a new mindset and try things which would never occur to you when shooting for a flat, two-dimensional presentation.”