There are those who say virtual reality was dead on arrival. There are those who say the technology just has yet to catch up to its promise.
Then there is Al Caudullo, who will say the VR revolution is well underway before throat-punching you into an Oculus headset.
Caudullo’s latest production, The Cave VR Experience, puts you in a stretcher with “Coach Ek” of Wild Boars’ fame as he/you are pulled, hand by rescuer hand, from the eponymous cavern. It just showed at Australia’s largest regional film festival in Byron Bay and will be available at select Thai theaters when The Cave opens in three weeks.
Filmed on set of the feature film by director Tom Waller, the roughly three-minute, 180-degree film is mostly experienced from the POV of Ekkapol Chantawong (Ekawat Niratvorapanya), the Wild Boars football team coach carried out in a capstone moment of 2018’s cave rescue drama.
After a few potentially nauseating shaky camera moments, the experience smooths out and builds to an emotional payoff as – hard to spoil this one – you are successfully rescued to the sound of applause in an emotionally poignant moment.
“They say if you can make someone cry with VR, then you have hit the Holy Grail,” Caudullo said in a Tuesday interview of the greatest praise he’s received for it – two employees of Facebook-owned headset maker Oculus in tears as it concluded.
Coach Ek’s rescue is dramatized in the film opening Nov. 21. His rescuer, Belgian-Irish rescue diver Jim Warny, plays himself in the film as, in full disclosure, does this reporter (though he gains nothing whether it swims out of the red or drowns).
Movie-goers will get a chance to slip into the cave through an Oculus Go headset when The Cave VR Experience is shown at select Major and SFX Cinema theaters for some weekends upon the release of The Cave.
Caudullo’s production career goes back decades, and in fact, his passions were originally seized by 3D – his first love – decades ago, back in the heady days of Jaws 3-D. He still winces when reflecting on its failed promise.
But he’s learned to love again, and describing him today as a VR evangelist would be an understatement – more a fearsome Old Testament preacher ready to shatter faithless disbelievers.
A Bangkok resident, he produces content through his Explore Media studio and says proof of the industry’s vitality is evident in the many projects and productions underway, from new hardware and new platforms to content including games and films.
He says all it takes to give someone their VR oh-shit epiphany is a few seconds inside.
“They’re sold the moment they see it, but it’s [difficult] getting the headset on them,” he said.