Meet the Creator: Nir Saar, “Summertime”

Summertime is here, and to celebrate we had a chat with one of our favorite creators – Nir Sa’ar, the man behind many wonderful things, including ‘Summertime’. The piece has been live on Inception for over a year now and is consistently one of the most popular pieces of content on Inception.

Q: Can you tell us who you are, and your roles on ‘Summertime’?

I started my career in the traditional cinema world as a writer and director. Throughout my career my work has been received and presented in many film festivals, and I’ve even had the opportunity to debut at the Venice film festival with ‘Skinwaters’.


For many years I described myself as a one man show. I grew up being kind of a geek, very much into technology. Four years ago my team and I created an AR app but unfortunately the company was way ahead of its time and the market wasn’t ready yet. I have great interest in immersive technologies and the fact that this field came back to life made me very happy and I immediately returned to it.


I don’t see VR as an evolution of the traditional cinema, in my eyes, it’s something completely new and different from what we are used to. Although some of the methods used in VR were adopted from traditional cinema, the gaming industry and theater, immersive experiences are something completely new, and I’m proud to be a part of it.


I took part in the accelerator of the Venice Biennale. It was held for the first time last year and it took place as part of the Venice Film Festival. They made a special program for VR to which just nine teams from all over the world were accepted. It was a very prestigious and interesting program, it also showed me the progress of VR since I noticed that a lot of people who are at the top of their field suddenly put their emphasis on VR. If someone who has been in ARTE for 20 years or in TV or cinema, and now focuses only on VR – it says something about the development of this technology. I also know that there are a lot of interesting projects on the way especially from North America.


Q: Can you talk me through Summertime? What happens when I put on the headset?

It’s a guerrilla movie made with friends and with almost no budget. It was shot using a prototype stereoscopic camera that wasn’t even released to market back then. My main mission was to create a true VR drama and not something that might be seen as a gimmick. By using storytelling tools and my experience in traditional cinema, I could add some elements that afterwards led to the success of the film. Using different camera positions, outside and inside POV, made the movie versatile and treated each scene individually. These are some of the reasons we had the honor to present in the official selection of VR at Cannes Festival.


Q: Can you tell us about the origins of Summertime? What’s the story behind it, what was your vision?

The film is based on a true story that I was following for several years, about an international organ transplants network that uses people to conduct their business activity. I think what makes this story so unique is that the victims of the story are not people from the margins of society but rather “normal people”. The fact that there’s something new here is what really intrigued me. In this kind of story where you find yourself committed to some criminal entities, it is difficult to take a step back and leave it all behind.


Q: What kind of reactions have you seen from people watching the film for the first time?

The comments from people were amazing! There were two groups of people and reactions. One group, those without professional experience in the industry, said they found themselves completely drawn into the story and had an exciting physical and emotional experience. The other group, those with professional experience, like people from Oculus for example, said they have never seen something like that before in the VR guerilla filmmaking genre.


Q: Can you share the process involved in making a VR piece and how much time you generally spend?

The entire idea behind indie movies is to create a quality and creative piece in a low budget. Our movie was created in a day and a half and with a budget of only $200, a proper guerilla filmmaking. The camera we used was a Vuze Camera and it’s an affordable camera, kind of like the GoPro of VR. Vuze Camera is made in Israel and since it wasn’t available for buying at that time, Vuze sent someone from the company to operate the camera and help us with the shooting. They were really part of the production together with Green Productions that helped with the post production part. It was also one of the first times something like that was made in Israel.


Q: What are your thoughts on the future of VR cinema?

I think that in the coming years, VR will be divided clearly into professional niches – tourism, medicine, services. At the same time, with regard to content, the big step forward will be when 6 degrees of freedom are implemented. When volumetric capture and 3D scanning become more accessible and it becomes possible to move in a space, this will be the next big thing.

Today it is still difficult to operate within the technical limitations. In the next two or three years, I believe there will be significant breakthroughs in this area, and it will be possible to create content that is more immersive and engaging. I also think that the boundaries will become more blurry in regard to AR and MR, I’m already working on two projects in this area.


Q: In two sentences: WHY inception?

Inception is a very versatile company. Your work varies from content creation to excellent cross-platform distribution.

I personally feel that I’ve found a new home in which I can grow and develop my work. I’m very happy we had the opportunity to work on to some joint projects with excellent feedback, such as the Hum with Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. Inception had the courage to dive into the deep water and make a significant investment on producing a music video. Inception is the right partner to take risks with, in a positive way, and really do something groundbreaking together.

The Hum combines stereoscopic video with computer graphics, high production value, and an innovative way of editing. People are afraid to make large movements and extreme cuts and edits in VR, but together we decided to go for it and cut the video according to the rhythm of the music and go wild with it.

We wanted to take the Ibiza party atmosphere and translate it to the way the film was made and edited. I saw people watching it, smiling and dancing and basically being happy, and that’s how you know the work you’ve done is great.


Q: Finally, to anyone out there who may be developing a VR project… do you have any advice?

I would say that the first thing as a starting point is not to think why you are actually doing VR. If you want to use this medium, go with your gut feeling and do it. Do not try to limit yourself to a very specific reason, and on the other hand, more practically, take into account the type of distributions you are looking for.

If you want to distribute through an app or as a YouTube 360 video, through Oculus or Vive. First understand what you want to do and then decide what you’re doing. There are many kinds of experiences which are very different in their workflow and you need to find the right one for you.