Bringing Virtual into Reality with Canon’s Dual Fisheye Lens

The Sundance Film Festival is an annual gathering of artists, filmmakers, and audiences, brought together to explore and create a community around independent visual storytelling. In early 2022, it called this community together again in an entirely new way: by establishing a digital event for festival-goers in virtual reality (VR). Audience members created avatars, set themselves up in the 3D space — either on their laptop screen or VR headset — and explored the many virtual areas included in the festival “arena.”

This iteration of the event was the ideal location for a short film premiere by Canon, “Through a Different Lens.” Presented in VR, the film was created to demonstrate the capabilities of Canon’s new stereoscopic lens, the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye, and follows the whimsical, fairytale journey of a young girl who learns to look at the world in a new way. The stereoscopic lens puts viewers in the girl’s shoes, seeing the world as she experiences it. To go alongside the short film, Butcher Bird Studios directed a documentary exploring the shoot’s behind-the-scenes, presented in both 2D at the festival and now also available to view in 3D.

Bringing the lens to life – in 2D and 3D

The Dual Fisheye is a first from Canon: an all-in-one lens that allows filmmakers to discover the potential of shooting in stereoscopic, 180° VR filmmaking.

“What was really great about using the Dual Fisheye in our documentary for ‘Through a Different Lens,’” explains Steven Calcote, BTS Director, “is that it places viewers into this world of whimsy and beauty. You have the chance to experience this beautiful botanical garden as if you’re actually there.”

The short film serves as a metaphor for Canon’s groundbreaking new technology. When Butcher Bird Studios was asked to document the behind-the-scenes story of this new lens in action, we immediately knew it would be a perfect fit. This project continues Butcher Bird’s pedigree of tech innovation combined with boundary-pushing creativity.

For Steven, “The really fascinating aspect of our work for ‘Through a Different Lens’ — one of the first narrative films to use the Dual Fisheye lens — is that we were simultaneously one of the first documentary teams to use this lens. Our project is a 3D story of a 3D film.”

At the same time, Butcher Bird deployed a 2D documentary unit, covering both the main film and, occasionally, the creation of the 3D documentary. “We had this funny situation where filmmakers were filming filmmakers who were also filming filmmakers—all in the spirit of telling the story of a new revolution in filmmaking. For us, that was a real delight. We’ve always embraced pushing the boundaries of creative storytelling with new technologies.”

The short film was shot at a large botanical garden in Los Angeles and showcases a young girl’s whimsical journey to see the world in a new light.

Telling a story of discovery

As a director, the dual nature of the documentary meant that it needed to showcase both the filming of the story, and the features of the lens. Throughout the shoot, Steven had to stay mindful of capturing the overall journey of “Through a Different Lens” as well as the smaller moments in which filmmakers made discoveries with the product.

“The Dual Fisheye has a beautiful and somewhat whimsical design itself. It’s always striking when you see it on set. So as we went around telling the story of a particular scene or shot, we tried to frame the lens as if we were discovering it, and trying to understand the new technology. We’d move closer to the lens — as if saying, ‘Oh, what’s that over there?’ — and we would listen to the filmmakers as they used the lens.”

Along with recording the filmmakers’ testimonials, the documentary also places the viewer in their shoes, moving behind the camera to see what they were seeing. Steven adds, “We then followed that story all the way through the post production process so that as you learn about this new lens, you also watch how to make a great film with it.”

The documentary places viewers in filmmakers’ shoes to discover the lens

The future of filmmaking?

At the 2022 Sundance Festival, the documentary for “Through a Different Lens” premiered alongside the main film in an immersive community section aptly named “New Frontier.” With VR so prevalent as a boundary-pushing technology in the festival, what does Butcher Bird Studios think about its place in the future of filmmaking?

“As the film itself suggests, virtual reality allows you to look at the world through an entirely new perspective – a different lens! – which the documentary also shines a light on,” Steven explains. “It was fitting that we were able to share this story at the Sundance festival, where we were treated with a new virtual way of attending.”

The Canon RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye 3D VR Lens was announced in October 2021

What does this mean for Canon’s new VR lens? “VR rewards people who can’t attend an experience in person, and offers tools to capture reality in an entirely new way. As every artist knows, having access to a variety of filmmaking technology offers new ways to celebrate and share unique stories.”

VR filmmaking also harkens back to the older art form of theater. “In VR, you have to consider placement. Where is the best place to experience this event from? What is the best arrangement of foreground, middle, and background? How can you block this scene for the best, most dynamic storytelling to bring your story to life?” In the end, Steven explains, it boils down to one question: “If I were there in person as a viewer, which perspective would give me the highest emotional impact?”

But even with their differences, both 2D and 3D filmmaking always aim to deliver a viewing experience that resonates with the most important aspect of the storytelling process: the audience. “As filmmakers, we endeavor to give viewers memorable experiences. Canon’s Dual Fisheye lens offers completely new possibilities for how we deliver those experiences to the audience.”

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About Butcher Bird Studios

Butcher Bird Studios is a creative content company that leverages cutting-edge technology to tell the stories of the future. We offer a unique blend of creativity and innovation, bridging the gap between brands and non-traditional talent and media to engage new audiences. Our client portfolio includes forward-thinking entertainment and commercial companies such as Netflix, Twitch and BuzzFeed, amongst many others. butcherbirdstudios.com

Bringing Virtual into Reality with Canon’s Dual Fisheye Lens