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Make It A (Virtual) Reality – Space Jam 2

Most of yesterday for me was spent in bed feeling like death, but I was looking forward to writing today’s Make It, however all plans to write at length about how awesome a virtual reality (VR) version of Tachyon: The Fringe would be suddenly disappeared when I found in our staff Skype chat had overruled my choice and replaced it with something else.

spacejam_3 “Space Jam 2 confirmed. That’s an essential ‘Make it’ for tomorrow.” Wrote VRFocus Editor happily, presumably before our very own Basketball Jones flew like and eagle and began dancing his might from coast-to-coast. Well, if you insist, for you I will. (Which is four soundtrack references in one paragraph and a mighty impressive piece of Space Jam referencing).

Of course Space Jam 2 hasn’t actually been confirmed yet, (sorry folks) but when even the merest hint of a sequel sets the Internet ablaze and you’ve got the websites of serious publications like Forbes and TIME magazine doing counter-news pieces about it, the chances of one being green lit are somewhat high. So what could we get from a Space Jam 2 and how could it fit in with VR? Well even if it was green lit today we’d not actually see anything for two years minimum so it might be good to think of how the industry would have possibly developed by then to see what it could present.

So let’s for the sake of argument say we get a Christmas 2017 release for Space Jam 2 in cinemas. Would the film be in VR? Well by this point all the major players will have released their first generation of commercial headsets onto the market; it’s likely we’d even be talking about the Oculus Rift CV2 at that point. VR films would have begun moving more mainstream, Avatar 2 would in theory be out at roughly the same time and just like it broke a lot of 3D boundaries might well be the first big Hollywood blockbuster to specifically involve VR – unless Dreamworks gets their first with something like How To Train Your Dragon 3.

Would Space Jam 2 actually look good in VR though? It does surprisingly have some surprising strikes against it. Space Jam might have grown over the last five years into much more of a cult favourite, particularly online but as an actual film it didn’t exactly do much to push the bar in terms of cinematography. I can’t recall much in the way of exciting action shots. Most were scenes were fixed mid to long camera shots with a close-up of one character to cut to on occasions.

Realistically, the only parts where VR would be viable is in situations when you’re in the action and you’d be likely to need 360 degrees of view – which translates to only specific moments in the resulting basketball game. Whilst the action going on all around you, players moving and interacting would be good unless you want it to be just a flat viewpoint you then have the difficulty in animating that sequence in VR which would be very labour intensive and with a fast paced moment like that it’s going to be awkward for the cinema audience. Let’s say Daffy passes to Bugs, (okay I know that fact alone is unlikely, but bear with me ) and the ball goes from in front of you to behind you, tracking the game is going to be difficult – and potentially noisy as the entire audience shifts around in their seat trying to follow the movement of the action. A first-person perspective could be possible, similar to Nike’s Neymar Jr. experience where you’re moving along the pitch but then in theory you need to animate everyone and everything in 3D, you’ve got the prospect of CGI mixed with traditional-looking animation and live action which to me sounds like a logistical nightmare. Combined with the fact that on every occasion we’ve seen the Looney Tunes characters adopt a more three-dimensional physical appearance they’ve looked very wrong.

Space Jam
Probably doesn’t contain virtual reality. Probably.

So we’ve got the VR likely limited to specific moments as opposed to the whole thing. It is likely going to be very expensive to shoot with the mix of film styles and has the possibility of really looking quite bad by taking the characters out of the style they look best in.  It doesn’t sound very promising does it?

So let’s forget Space Jam 2 the film. I have a more radical suggestion – how about Space Jam 2… the website?

You may or may not know this but the website for Space Jam is pretty much considered one of the granddaddy’s of the Internet. What’s even better is that 19 years later and the site is STILL there; it looks utterly terrible but it is, in a sense a digital time capsule of the Internet’s earliest days. You would have thought that a company would find such an old looking website embarrassing but Warner Bros. have instead kept the site live whilst portals for other much younger films have gone by the wayside. It’s almost as if there is as great a degree of sentimentality about it at Warner Bros. as there is with the Internet in general has for the site. How much sentimentality? To give you an example on New Years Eve 2014 the Space Jam website went offline for a period of time – fans noticed. There was uproar on Twitter, people very genuinely offended that the site had been taken away from them. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to reassuring people the website is still online.

Space Jam
Internet Cultural Treasure? – Space Jam’s website, still in its original format from 1996.

So if Space Jam’s website is the equivalent of a culturally protected building for the technology of the time I’d like to propose the possibility Space Jam 2’s website be the same – but for VR. Admittedly this would be more of an app but by that 2017 we’ll have a number of VR browsers even potentially those by the larger companies. We already know of the Firefox VR browser in development for instance. What if Space Jam 2 became the first mainstream promotional website designed for VR? A site that when you entered was specifically geared to showing you footage and characters and 360 video of the set which you then navigated in VR.  Users could browse through screenshots with hand movement; navigate links by moving their avatar through a 3D space. By this time we’d have that possibility and we could oblige history with another appropriately inappropriate markerstone in the history of the Internet.

It is a suggestion anyway.

Warner Bros., Mr. James, the ball is in your (basketball) court.