Zero Days VR
“This is happening in our backyard, it’s not just in the Middle East, far away in Iran. So we wanted it to not just feel like you’re floating through code, but for people to really understand the stakes, and how it could go wrong. A piece of malware can actually cause physical damage, and the United States is the most vulnerable nation.”
— Yasmin ElayatBased on Alex Gibney’s feature-length documentary Zero Days, Zero Days VR tells its story from a perspective that wasn’t possible before virtual reality. The true story of a clandestine mission hatched by the United States and Israel to sabotage an underground Iranian nuclear facility is told first from the point of view of a key NSA informant and then of Stuxnet, the sophisticated cyberweapon at the heart of the mission. The audience steps into the invisible world of computer viruses to experience high-stakes cyberwarfare at human scale.
Scatter is a Brooklyn-based immersive media studio pioneering a new genre of media called volumetric filmmaking, which combines the interactivity of game-engine virtual reality with the craft and sensibility of filmmaking. Made possible with DepthKit, volumetric filmmaking enables VR filmmakers to three-dimensionally capture real people and real stories and place them within an interactive virtual reality experience.
At Scatter we worked closely with Framestore and Jigsaw to capture and design a set of interviews presenting the anonymized testimonies of NSA whistleblowers. Our approach was intended to obscure the identities of the informants while still giving them a platform to speak. We used our reality capture tool DepthKit as a digitized veil, allowing us to obfuscate their identities while still retaining their gestures.
—ScatterIn October 2018, Zero Days VR was awarded a News & Documentary Emmy for Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary.
“The story in VR is told on two levels, from the perspective of Stuxnet itself and from the view of computer scientists, represented here by a holographic NSA informant. ‘We set out to answer Gibney’s question: How can you make a documentary where the lead character is code?’ said director Yasmin Elayat. ‘And by using custom tools we’ve been able to recreate the Stuxnet narrative in a new way, visualizing the invisible world of cyberwar with techniques native to the VR medium.’”
“Aerial combat was a thing of the 20th century; now, cyberspace is the theater of war. ‘Zero Days VR’ answers the question, ‘How do we tell stories of conflict in digital spaces?’ For Elayat, George, producers Mei-Ling Wong, Alexander Porter, technical director Elle Zananiri, and Gibney, the answer very well should be ‘beautifully.’”