With virtual reality making it possible to simulate going anywhere and doing anything, director Eliza McNitt would like to take you to outer space.
McNitt led the team that created the virtual reality experience Fistful of Stars, a five-minute cosmic poem that debuted at SXSW last week and embeds the viewer in outer space. As you scan a black horizon of stars, you hitch a ride on the Hubble Space Telescope in low earth orbit to witness stars dying and being born.
A dramatic narration by author and astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio expounds on the magical, mystical elements of the relationship between deep space and humanity. Livio, who worked on the Hubble Telescope for 24 years, has a voice that strikes an “Israeli Werner Herzog” chic in your ear as you turn your head to realistically stare through space: “The atoms in our bodies were forged inside the furnaces of stars. Therefore it is true: we literally are stardust.”
There’s some powerful original music by composer Paola Prestini to accompany these visuals. A 30-piece ensemble and 100-person choir perform “The Hubble Cantata,” which ends in a crescendo of human voices singing the title of the film/experience.
“A two-dimensional film is about creating a narrative that’s driven by a plot and told through your choices in editing to tell a story. Virtual reality is an experience that tells a story through the world that you create,” McNitt said from the crowded floor of the SXSW Virtual Cinema, where numerous VR creators were showcasing their work to hordes of VR escapists waiting in long lines zone out in chairs.
This isn’t the first time Fistful of Stars has been available to the public. It premiered as a “live performance in an opera house for 6,000 people, each of them clad in a Cardboard VR headset while the musicians performed on stage.
“We wanted to redefine people’s expectations of VR,” McNitt told Inverse.
She described her next project as “interactive, episodic exploration of mankind’s future among the stars,” drawing her inspiration from the image Pale Blue Dot.
In light of the high-quality outer space experience she’s already unveiled at SXSW, it will intriguing to see the followup.