Star Trek Beyond’s Director Drops a Wild 360-Degree Film
Justin Lin, the director of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and four spectacularly successful Fast and Furious films, doesn’t do slow. Now he’s pushing the pace in all directions with Help, a breakneck 360-degree sci-fi film debuting today on the YouTube app that’s every bit as spectacular as a Hollywood blockbuster.
Set in downtown Los Angeles—where a custom-made, 360-degree camera roams through the streets and sky and subway tunnels—Help follows a young woman and an LAPD cop (played by Fast and Better Luck Tomorrow star Sung Kang) being pursued by a terrifying alien. Whereas most films seem like skeletal proofs of concept, Help has the spectacular heft, goliath action sequences, and sequential narrative of a Hollywood blockbuster.
A 13-month process yielded an original camera array (using four Epic Red Dragon cameras) and new software tools to process the 200 terabytes of information and 15 million rendered frames needed for the film. Aside from the technological innovation, the visual storytelling of the movie itself is fascinating: Though viewers are given the ability to look anywhere, Lin directs your attention with sound and visual cues through different locations and constantly evolving scenes. (You can see a making-of video here.)
“I just drew the idea on a whiteboard, and that was it,” says Lin, who produced the short with his company Bullitt, Google ATAP, and VFX house the Mill. “We didn’t know how to do it then. But Google needed to push the envelope and they weren’t phased. So I kept pushing. And pushing. That’s what I learned from the indie film world: It’s to say, This is the idea—how do we get there? Don’t censor it. Just push to get there.”
Nominated for a “visual media experience” Interactive Innovation Award at SXSW this year, the film is a big step forward for Lin’s content studio Bullitt, which he co-founded in 2014 with partners Todd Makurath and Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Joe attended UCLA with Lin). The studio already has a batch of Super Bowl ads to its credit, but it’s now using Help to dive into virtual reality: It recently secured a $10 million financing commitment to expand its commitment to VR.
After premiering on Google’s Spotlight Stories app last year, the short film, written and directed by Lin, is now on YouTube for anyone to watch. The non-360-degree version is above, but to see it in all its immersive glory, you’ll need the YouTube app on a compatible Android device or the Google Spotlight Stories app for iPhone.