Viewers can feel like they were sitting on the hillside during the Sermon on the Mount or right beside the crypt during the resurrection in VR re-enactment.
First came the scriptures; then the altarpieces. After that, stained glass windows and engravings of the Stations of the Cross. Last century brought biblical epics like Spartacus. Now believers will be able to experience the life of Jesus as if they were there themselves, thanks to advances in virtual reality technology.
Autumn Productions and VRWERX are set to release Jesus VR – The Story of Christ, a 90-minute virtual reality re-enactment of the New Testament, which includes Jesus’s birth and death by crucifixion, along with key moments like the Sermon on the Mount.
Enzo Sisti, who is executive producing the film, served the same role on The Passion of the Christ, the Mel Gibson film that raked in $370m back in 2004. Tim Fellingham will play the savior.
There are other connections with Gibson’s film.
Jesus VR was filmed on location in Matera, Italy, the same location The Passion used, and also uses the same religious adviser, Father William Fulco. It remains to be seen whether the VR film will be as violent and bloody as The Passion was, though a virtual reality crucifixion may prove to be gruelling viewing.
Jesus VR was filmed in 360-degree 4K video, so viewers will be able to look all around the scenes and see action from every angle. When water is turned into wine, the producers promise, it will be as as if they were actually in the middle of the wedding at Canaan.
Jesus VR will be available for anyone who can figure out how to use a Google Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, or HTC Vine. However, in terms of memory the size of virtual reality movies, especially one that is 90 minutes long, is absolutely huge, so penitents may have to empty out their cell phones in order to fit this futuristic Bible on it.
“The viewers truly feel they are there with Jesus and his disciples,” director and producer David Hansen said in a statement. “This is the most powerful story of all time and virtual reality is the perfect way to tell it.”
While entertainment for Christian audiences can often result in huge viewing figures – like The Passion or History Channel’s The Bible miniseries – the big variable here is whether there will be enough early adopters of VR technology by this Christmas, when the movie will be released, for the film to be a hit. But perhaps every devout Christian will also be getting an Oculus Rift from Santa this year.