I have always wondered what would it feel like to find myself in a free-fall, lost in space. From 2001: Space Odyssey to Gravity to upcoming Adrift, sci-fi media presented this scenario, often in first-person perspective, yet I have yet to feel like I truly experienced it.
In this short VR Experiment I decided to try and recreate the sensation – tumbling out of control in orbit of our home planet, Earth. Needless to say, Freefall is best experienced using high fidelity HMD (Head-Mounted Display) such as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and headphones. GearVR is pretty good, too. You can download the high-quality video for local playback through a link at the bottom of this post.
If you’d rather watch the streaming version, make sure to set the video quality (gear icon) to 2K and use the eye icon to toggle between mono and stereoscopic views.
Unlike Prismatic, Freefall was a rather quick exercise – I wanted to see how Octane Render performs with extreme quality textures (source Earth maps were in 16K and above). I needed to test the compositing workflow for stereoscopic VR – mainly unwrapping equirectangular animations to cube maps, adding vfx and then re-wrapping.
Finally, I wanted to give the camera a continuous rotating motion on all three axes to determine the range of speeds that are acceptable for VR viewing. In the end I feel I found a sweet spot where the motion is quite disorienting, yet does not induce nausea.
Download for best quality
For best quality, I recommend viewing Freefall locally, using a dedicated app on your computer or mobile device. I had best experience using Virtual Desktop on Windows 10 with DK2 of Oculus Rift. Other popular players include Vrideo player on mobile or Kolor Eyes for both mobile and desktop. There is more information on watching stereoscopic VR in Prismatic: 360° VR Animation.
Needless to say, the download is offered for your personal enjoyment and does not authorize you to re-upload or re-publish it online or offline without prior written authorization.
Watch it online
Here are a few options for watching Freefall online. All should work on mobile and desktop.
Credits and Technical Details
Directed and animated by Quba Michalski
Audio design by Quba Michalski
Rendered in OTOY Octane Render
Edited and Composited in Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects
Satellite imagery by NASA Visible Earth
Rendered at 30fps and enhanced to 60fps via timewarping. Mastered in 2K^2 (2048x2048px) top-bottom equirectangular stereo.