This evening, Brian Shuster and Anna Lee of HoloFilms Productions gave a demonstration of virtual reality adult content to members of the industry. Performers, agents and directors came by the AVN office to take a peek. Below, read Mark Kernes' report on the shoot, which was one of three different scenes previewed by the HoloFilms team.
CANOGA PARK, Calif.—It was all very hush-hush, but last month, AVN was invited to observe the first large-scale sexually explicit virtual reality shoot to take place anywhere in the world, thanks to Utherverse/Red Light Center founders Anna Lee and Brian Shuster—and the promise is, there's plenty more to come.
The Synthologram™ shoot involved actresses (or "synthespians"), Karlie Montana, August Ames, Anikka Albrite and Adriana Sephora, with the troupe being stage-managed by the production team of Kayden Kross and Manuel Ferrara.
But to say that this shoot was "unusual" barely scratches the surface. For one thing, being a VR shoot, every square inch (well, just about) of the set where the action was to take place was to be recorded by the unique virtual-reality camera set-up, which meant that it was impossible for any "outsider" not directly involved in the scene—not even the director—to be in the room. In fact, once the women were in their places for the first scene, the entrance to the room was blocked off with a stage flat depicting a cityscape, so that all the camera rig would see would be women, chairs, sex toys and walls.
Nonetheless, with the performers having been carefully chosen from among the top talent in the industry, in part because all were proven "self-starters" when it comes to acting sexy, Ferrara and Shuster gave them some preliminary instructions about how close they could get to the camera; the fact that they're not allowed to move the chairs in which they would be performing lest they go out of focus, or go too far to the left or right (which would cause problems "stitching" the scene together); and advising on what they should say to the camera; that is, inviting them to make the viewers cum.
Humorously, when Ferrara told Adriana Sephora that when she takes off her bottom, she should turn around to show her butt to the camera, she responded, "Yeah, not the boring parts," to which one wag on set chimed in, "Hey, none of your parts are boring."
Due to the nature of the camera rig, the performances were limited to 12 minutes each—but that's one of the limitations Shuster hopes to overcome with the crowdfunding campaign that's due to kick off on September 15.
"This shoot that we're doing today is the first-ever synthologram shoot," Shuster explained. "What a synthologram is, is a full 360 degree full 3D image, with the ability to move around the scene in a limited capacity. You can't actually look behind the performers, but you can see with depth everything that's happening. We've also pioneered technology which is full hologram technology and full interactive hologram technology, and we're also going to be doing a shoot where we show some still versions of that, but we can do these holograms now in full action full motion."
Many performers and producers have already seen 3D still images, but that's only a taste of what they can expect from full-blown virtual reality porn.
"This shoot is really the pioneering shoot, the first one that's being done this way, and I'm hopeful we'll be able to use this to show off the technology and do a crowdfunding campaign that's going to fund this next generation," Shuster stated. "The crowdfunding campaign will be up and running in September. The problem is, we can do this shoot, but post-production right now on holograms is hundreds of thousands of dollars a minute, and even on the synthologram stuff, this is costing us about $50,000 a minute. So with the porn lovers' help with our crowd-fund, we're going to give them access to a huge amount of virtual reality porn for helping us out with the campaign, but I'm going to be able to drop the cost, I'm hoping to train hundreds of people I've got standing by in Brazil and Russia to help with the post-production work, which should drop the cost down to maybe $400 or $500 a minute in the near term, and then we can start cranking these things out, multiple shoots a week with the best porn stars and deliver the content."
Shuster stressed several aspects of the synthologram program that should appeal to porn producers and stars across the board. For one thing, syntholography can't be pirated: the syntholograms are far too large and complex—in fact, even streaming the images would require far more bandwidth than most ISPs would be willing to provide, which is why all VR material currently available on the Web is for download only. It's also not something amateur would-be producers will be able to get into, in part because programs designed to play the images are for the most part still a work in progress, and no standard has yet emerged from the several currently available that would enable an amateur to gear his/her VR footage to software that potential viewers are likely to possess—and these days, everyone is wary about downloading unknown programs from the internet, having heard that that's the primary method by which malware is introduced to their computers.
But for the performers, appearing in VR scenes and movies will have an extra bonus.
"For the full hologram stuff, performers will get residuals," Shuster promised, "and what I love about that is, once we've gone through the whole process of capturing them as what we call a synthologram—that means a fully interactive hologram where we scan them so we have their skin, hair, their facial features, their body features, soft-tissue movements, all of that—we convert that all to a synthespian hologram and the performers will get a residual then any time somebody subscribes to become that synthespian, or any time somebody wants sex with that synthespian, they may be paying a fee, like a subscription fee. Even performers who have been out of the business for years will be able to keep providing enjoyment for their fans through their syntholograms and keep making money from that."
But getting HoloFilm Productions up and running will be no easy task.
"To produce actual hologram technology, it costs as much as a quarter million dollars a minute," Shuster advised, "so I have assembled the technology to do that, but it's just cost prohibitive. ... But with the help of porn users and the crowdfund, we're going to be able to drive those prices down to hundreds of dollars a minute within a few months. ... If we can bring the cost of the technology down that quickly, then we're going to be able to produce content, multiple shoots per week with all of the superstar performers and really get this technology out to the industry, and it'll help Hollywood too; it's really going to help everybody in terms of what virtual reality is going to be able to deliver, and of course, the porn content level is going to be so spectacular, it's going to get better and it's going to get cheaper."
HoloFilm's crowdfunding campaign will be through Indiegogo, and will use the title (and hashtag) #GivePornAHand, and its initial target will be $750,000, which Shuster describes as "pretty low."
"But we'll have stretch goals," Shuster assured. "We're hoping to unite everybody who loves the idea of virtual reality, everybody who loves porn, have them all come in and maybe do a $20 million or $30 million crowdfund, and with that kind of money, we can absolutely change the industry and start to deliver the most amazing, never-before-experienced-by-human-beings level of XXX content in terms of holograms and syntholograms and all kinds of other immersive environments interactive experiences, and it's really going to change everything."
Shuster realizes that he's got his work cut out for him. As a 20-year veteran of the adult internet industry, he's well aware that companies don't jump into new technology easily—a problem he discovered Way Back When while trying to interest producers in posting their scenes on websites.
"This internet thing is frightening, is really what they were saying, and I hear the same thing about virtual reality: It's frightening, it's disruptive," Shuster said. "We're making money as it is, but once we demonstrate the power of the crowdfunding campaign and the power of the technology and the enthusiasm of users, then I am absolutely going to invite other studios to come in, use our technology; I'll assemble a massive video district within Red Light Center where users can come and get all their virtual reality in all the different flavors all together in one massive adult district, and I'm excited to see what other studios will produce with the technology that we ultimately achieve here.
"I want the industry to benefit across the board," he added. "I want every performer, every contract girl, every viewer to have their favorite studio be able to participate in this technological revolution. We're going to start to see superstars grow out of hologram technology."