Nightflyers is a new science fiction TV series premiering December 2nd on SyFy. In advance of the premiere, SyFy has launched a special three-part web series in virtual reality. Available on YouTube VR as well as on SyFy.com, each chapter in the VR mini-series is around five minutes in length.
The story follows several characters, in a series of 360-degree videos shot on the actual sets of the TV show. Special effects were also added to the production, which is essentially a short mystery on board the Nightflyer spaceship. Chapter summaries from SyFy.com are provided below (links to YouTube are included for each chapter):
Chapter 1: Alarm
Kel, a new recruit aboard the Nightflyer, must journey into the heart of the ship to uncover the secrets hidden within the starship’s dangerous cargo.
Chapter 2: Tunnel
Lommie uses her physical connection with the ship to confront the L1 telepath, supposedly being kept locked away.
Chapter 3: Circle
Kel’s harrowing journey through the Nightflyer concludes in a mind-bending showdown with Thale.
Although it can be argued that 360 video is not “true VR”, when done well it can provide a very immersive experience. Especially when presented in stereoscopic 3D, the experience can be just as good as computer-generated VR, and is usually more realistic (since the imagery is captured from real life).
Thankfully, Nightflyers is fully stereoscopic and provides a great sense of depth throughout the story. Camera movement is slow and deliberate, which works well for VR productions, in order to prevent any motion sickness due to jarring motion or quick cuts in the action.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to get a complete sense of what the TV show is about in the short time we spend with a few characters in VR. But the experience does convey a sense of the atmosphere and tone of the show. The brooding music, creepy sound effects, and claustrophobic setting create a feeling of suspense and terror that we will likely see more of in the full series.
When I watch a 360-degree video, I want to feel like I’m in another place (either real or fictional). The Nightflyers VR experience effectively transported me to the sets of the TV show, and gave me the feeling of being a part of the production. Although I could not interact with any of the characters or affect the story, I felt like I was on the ship and experiencing the adventure along with them.
The Nightflyers VR experience is available via YouTube on all major VR headsets, including Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.
Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.