Justin Lin and YouTube have released the first digital live-action short that fully uses Google's 360-degree technology.
Epic, directed by Lin (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, Star Trek Beyond), puts the viewer in the middle of downtown Los Angeles just as an alien crash-lands on the planet. Like other 360 projects, viewers can use their mouse or trackpad on their computers to rotate the video and explore what's around them. Those using the Spotlight Series app on Android and iOS devices can also rotate the video, but can do so using touch controls.
The short film is one of the first dives into narrative storytelling while incorporating the viewer's freedom to explore. It's been a difficult equation for directors and storytellers to work out, but these types of concepts seem to be the most favorable. Other 360 videos that have tried to pull off something similar have also kept it short and exploratory, keeping the narrative pretty simple.
Despite the simple narrative, however, the short film doesn't skimp out on any of the effects. At just under five minutes, it's an interesting experiment in how linear narratives found in television and film can be incorporated with new technology to deliver an entirely different experience. YouTube hasn't said if they plan to make the short film available on VR devices, but it definitely seems like a possibility.
This is the first video for YouTube's Spotlight Series, but the company has said it's dedicated to releasing more short films and projects like Epic in the future.