This VR movie is a mind-boggling trip through Fractal landscapes
The VR movie Recombination takes you into the fascinating world of fractals, in 8K and 3D on Quest 2. I've watched it. And I was amazed.
Dutch digital artist Julius Horsthuis has been working with fractals for over a decade. More recently, he did some design work for Ant-Man 3 and created a film sequence for Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities.
"Realizing that the best way to enjoy my work is immersion, I collaborated with seven of my favorite musicians in order to create an abstract journey through music, space and mathematics," the project's website reads.
A 45-minute journey through fractal landscapes
Released last week on App Lab, the album consists of eight pre-rendered VR movies and a soundtrack. The total runtime is 45 minutes. Recombination was rendered using Mandelbulb3D fractal software and a render farm in about six months.
The total download size of all movies is 25 GB of video. There is no streaming option because Horsthuis did not want to compromise on image quality. The good news is that you can also download the movies individually in the VR app.
The fractal movies are available in the optimal resolution for VR movies on Meta Quest 2: 8,192 by 4,096 pixels. A 180-degree stereoscopic panorama provides total immersion without the need to turn around while watching. So you can sit back and let the images run over you.
"A mind-bending trip"
I watched the VR movies and was overwhelmed by their auditory and visual power. Organic-looking structures alternate with pulsating alien-like buildings, and there are zooms into infinitely repeating shapes, a well-known characteristic of fractals.
Some scenes are reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's sci-fi films such as Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014), and would undoubtedly fit in well with those films. Recombination is a feast for the senses, a truly mind-bending audiovisual trip that is enhanced by the fact that the field of vision is filled and there is no escape.
Those who buy the VR album should use good headphones. The images live from the music and vice versa.
Be cautious if you easily get sick in VR
As impressive as Horsthuis' fractals are: The camerawork and editing are not always up to the level of this material, and at times seem a bit arbitrary or out of sync with the music.
Speaking of the camera: Recombination takes a lot of liberties here, and some of the camera movements will definitely upset sensitive stomachs. Even I, not prone to motion sickness, felt a little queasy at times. Objects flying straight through your body can also make you feel uncomfortable.
And then there is the frame rate, which often drops and causes stuttering that takes away from the enjoyment of the impressive visuals and sounds.
Meta Quest 2 is noticeably crawling under the load of the high-resolution video material. "It's definitely pushing the hardware to the extremes, and indeed it might be that in places the 60fps frame rate struggles a little bit. We'll definitely continue developing to try and smooth this out as much as we can," Horsthuis writes in an email.
More fractal films could follow
For now, Horsthuis rules out a release on Meta Quest TV, which could open up the movies to a bigger audience. "I've looked into this, and even though the quality seems quite good, it isn't as good as we have gotten it using the app. [...] We made a very conscious choice that this will not be made available streaming because we wanted to avoid compression artifacts at all cost," says Horsthuis.
And what's next for Recombination? If there is demand, then it could be released for more VR platforms and shown in places like planetariums.
"I'm also really excited by the idea to have this VR platform as a format to make more fractal immersive films. Creating these 8 tracks have spawned many more ideas, collaborations with musical artists and fractal worlds I would like to explore. Bottom line, if enough people are enjoying this, I would like to make a whole bunch more!"