ZDFneo comedy shot entirely in VR becomes a chaotic trip into the metaverse
The ZDFneo series Doppelhaushälfte goes into the "metaverse". Despite hectic scene changes, the potential of shooting in VR becomes apparent.
The German TV series, ZDFneo recently broke new ground in this regard. The episode "Meta" of the ZDF series "Doppelhaushälfte" (semi-detached) was shot entirely in virtual reality, with Valve Index headsets and body trackers on set. Virtual locations in the social app Somnium Space served as filming locations.
VR becomes a virtual filming location
In the production, it quickly becomes clear that two cameramen were also on location in VR. The camera movements and shots appear similarly professional as in the real-life model shot in the lower-middle-class surroundings of Berlin. The lives of the Sawadi-Kröger (Maryam Zaree, Benito Bause) and Knuppe (Minh-Khai Phan-Thi, Milan Peschel) families also collide in the virtual world.
At the beginning of the episode, Mari's brother Brian equips both families with VR headsets to invite them to his virtual exhibition of NFT artwork. The exhibition is only the starting point, and, unfortunately, the chaotic story reveals itself to be a vehicle to visit as many different locations within Somnium Space as possible.
The grouchy ex-policeman Andi doesn't find it at all funny that the NFT images imitate his face in Bored Ape style and, without further ado, searches the Metaverse for a place to complain. When his kleptomaniac wife Tracy also steals a painting, a chase begins, careening through art dealers, swanky landowners, and virtual clubs.
Meanwhile, young family members Rocco and Zoe slip away to a virtual concert, while Theo develops almost manic traits while building a virtual cult. I didn't warm up to the sledgehammer humor about babbling "crypto-bros" and avatar bust sizes.
Maybe connoisseurs of the series, who already know the characters, their quirks, and innuendos, will appreciate the humor more. Unlike in real episodes, the actors didn't get their script until the day of shooting and often had to improvise. In addition, overacting was necessary to convey more personality.
Improvisation and overacting in the metaverse
"It's actually difficult to move in this 3-D world. As an actress, it's even more difficult because you only see your partner virtually. You don't see any facial expressions, only that your mouth is moving," says Minh-Khai Phan-Thi. The height of the virtual legs is also not always right yet, so some characters walk slightly bent over.
The film was directed by Dennis Schanz, who also wrote the script together with Christoph Mushayija Rath. Sebastian Ang (MRTV), William Schubert (dineXtion), and Marco Budde (newVRtech) did the preliminary work on the VR technology. They also advised the production company, acting as scouts for suitable locations in Somnium Space, and organized index headsets and extras.
Although situational comedy is not my thing, it was still an exciting experience to see the first German TV production shot in VR worlds. The "Behind the Scenes" is quite interesting, revealing how much space it took to realize all this - including actors and crew.
The Doppelhaushälfte episode "Meta" will be broadcast on May 23, 2023, at 10:10 p.m. on ZDFneo. You can already watch online in the ZDF media library.