Not content to merely pioneer progressive rock, Queen is helping Google Play pioneer virtual reality. Along with Enosis VR, they turned "Bohemian Rhapsody" into a trippy, 360° 3D journey featuring interactive elements and spatial sound. It’s a fitting song choice—the monumental, six-minute suite still resonates as much with people born in 1991 as those who heard it on the radio in 1975. 40-odd years of “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” have made the song sound more innovative, not less.
The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience runs on iOS and Android and can be watched with Google Cardboard or as a 360° video on a mobile device. Opening the app and pressing play feels like peering into Freddie Mercury’s brain. The musician was famously coy about the song’s meaning, and while it doesn’t give anything away, this experience renders Mercury’s imagination in resplendent purples and blues. The ballad is a playful wonderland of bicycling skeletons and animated globes. During the opera, the scene is a spooky cave. The rock section is a neon trip through space, and the coda is a drippy, intergalactic aurora.
Well-researched, creatively concepted, and visually stunning, the experience is a testament to how beautiful VR can be. It’s also groundbreaking for the medium. “It’s fully interactive, where most of the things are triggered by your gaze. As you view it, a lot of things pop up in front of your eyes. You don’t necessarily feel that you trigger them, but you do. Where your attention goes, that’s where action unfolds,” Vangelis Lympouridis, founder of Enosis, tells The Creators Project.
As the medium gets more accessible, creators have to figure out storytelling in 360 degrees. There’s the potential for viewers to miss a lot, and though filmmakers are experimenting with audio and visual cues, Lympouridis is one of the first to pin action to gaze. He has a PhD in Whole Body Interaction and an MSc in Sound Design, and he’s fascinated by how perceptions of music change with immersion. For The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience, Dolby laboratories did a brand new spatial remix. “Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, said it’s unbelievable how immersive the mix is and that we a great job. Having the band proclaim that the audio is superior is obviously really great,” Lympouridis says.
It’s hard to notice all the innovations if you’re not explicitly looking for them, but Lympouridis says that’s a good thing. If people notice that the experience is reacting to their gaze or changing audio directionality or never pausing to buffer, that means the technology is intrusive. The key to VR, he says, is making something the viewer welcomes as a natural experience. That means videos should be under 10 minutes to avoid making people nauseous, and erring on the side of synthetic, surreal visuals that surpass reality, rather than imitate it.
Rendering the world of Queen in virtual reality has farther reaching benefits than it being really freaking cool. Giving musicians a 360° canvas lets them think about their music in physical space. “Imagine a generation of musicians who understand music as coming from different directions and who understand psychoacoustics, how the acoustics of sound in immersive environments affect your psychology.” "Bohemian Rhapsody" shook the music industry when it debuted, and the experience from Google Play and Queen is an impressive experiment. It makes a great case for what the next wave of music and VR could feel like.
Check out The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience here. You can download it from Google Play and the App Store.