"Spheres," the first virtual reality series ever to land a seven-figure deal at the Sundance Film Festival, will soon be coming to a personal VR headset near you.
Written and directed by Eliza McNitt and executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, "Spheres" is a three-part series that explores the sounds of the cosmos. Since January, the visionaries behind the project have been premiering one-off 13-minute episodes at film festivals around the world. At Sundance, the Jessica Chastain-narrated "Spheres: Songs of Spacetime" plunged participants through a black hole. The second, "Spheres: Pale Blue Dot," narrated by singer-songwriter Patti Smith, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and focused on the Big Bang. Later this month, Aronofsky will premiere all three episodes with "Stranger Things" actress Millie Bobby Brown giving voice to "Spheres: Chorus of the Cosmos."
In a recent interview, McNitt said she was inspired to create "Spheres" after the discovery that gravitational waves contain the sounds of our universe.
"I wanted to tell the story of the human connection to the cosmos, and as I dove into research and the science behind the project, I learned that the discovery of gravitational waves won the Nobel in physics, so that was a huge part of the development of this project," she told Oculus. "I wanted to capture the most cutting-edge scientific discovery, and, in fact, that was this idea of sound. The title is inspired by the ancient philosophical theory called the Music of the Spheres, that predicted that celestial bodies created a form of music — and we truly did prove that with the discovery of gravitational waves."
More than just a visual experience, Aronofsky and McNitt also integrated interactive elements in "Spheres." Using platforms like the Oculus Rift, viewers can enjoy six-degrees of freedom. At one point, they're even encouraged to sing to add their own voices to that of the cosmos.
"You're a fly on the wall watching a star be born," McNitt added. "When the star supernovas into a black hole, suddenly you lose that sense of freedom — you lose the ability to move as you're constricted and now on rails as you're being sucked into a black hole."
After "Spheres," McNitt says she'll next create a character-driven VR piece with a focus on the cosmos. In an interview with the LA Times last year, she emphasized that her mission as a filmmaker is to simply create "narratives that are about the human connection to science."
"Spheres" will premiere on the Oculus later this fall, with other platforms to follow.