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Interactive Documentary 'Zero Days VR' Visualizes Cyberwar

The project, says director Alex Gibney, has "allowed viewers to viscerally enter this digital world in a way that is both immersive and revelatory." 6/15/2017 1:45 AM Eastern
Based on Zero Days, Alex Gibney's Participant Media documentary, Zero Days VR allows the user to explore a world of classified cyber weapons and the complex story of the intelligent malware Stuxnet. Created by immersive media studio Scatter and volumetric filmmakers DepthKit, this interactive documentary provides a first-person perspective of the virus itself.

"How can you make a documentary where the lead character is code?" asks director Yasmin Elayat. "By using custom tools, we've been able to re-create the Stuxnet narrative in a new way, visualizing the invisible world of cyberwar with techniques native to the VR medium."

First identified in 2010, Stuxnet is a self-replicating computer worm created in 2005 by the U.S. and Israel to infiltrate and sabotage the underground Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. Gibney described the virus as "the first cyber weapon known to cause physical destruction, taking control of machines and commanding them to destroy themselves, before leaking throughout the world, so that it could be repurposed by other nations, criminals and terrorists."

With Zero Days VR, viewers are guided through a series of classified worlds—from the NSA headquarters, where you hear the testimony of an informant, into the underground Iranian nuclear facility infected by the virus—before traveling into the heart of the virus itself. Created using a video game engine and optimized for "six-degrees of freedom" positional tracking, Zero Days VR combines real-time generative visualizations with live-action volumetric video filmed with DepthKit.

The hybrid format, explains James George, CEO of DepthKit, allows for "interactivity while staying true to the project's purpose as a documentary conveying real people and true events. Volumetric filmmaking enabled the Zero Days VR team to natively integrate a real, three-dimensional capture of key testimony from an NSA informant into the digital world of Stuxnet." Zero Days VR seeks to educate about this rising global issue by bringing to life this intangible world in a format that resonates with the conflict. The project, says Gibney, has "allowed viewers to viscerally enter this digital world in a way that is both immersive and revelatory."

Now available on Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, Zero Days VR is supported by Oculus Studio and accompanied by a Facebook 360 Teaser.


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