IF YOU LEARNED how to drive in the US, there’s a good chance you suffered through Red Asphalt—the famously gory driver’s ed film the California Highway Patrol has been making and remaking since the 60s.
Now the time-honored tradition of scaring teens into staying sober behind the wheel with gruesome images has taken on a new dimension: virtual reality.
Diageo, the British liquor company that owns Johnnie Walker, Baileys, and Guinness, has tapped VR tech to convey the risks of drunk driving with an extra dose of drama. Decisions puts you inside three cars destined for a fatal encounter late at night on a stretch of rural road. A couple on their first date after having a baby, three twenty-somethings heading to a party, and Sam, a young woman leaving a bar after a meeting that included bottle service.
The company plans to roll out its full setup—complete with a motion-chair—at events like music festivals, and to work with police departments and school systems to get teens into the experience. For everyone else, the four-minute horror show is now available via VR channels on YouTube, Facebook, and The New York Times.
Image Credit: DIAGEO
Decisions retains its potency even as a 3D YouTube video seen sans goggles and chair. As Sam drunkenly caroms down the road, you sense the increasingly erratic movement of the car, the jarring vibration when she briefly drifts off the road. You can look around, see the traffic on the road, and glimpse back to view her behind the wheel.
Virtual reality makes sense for this application: It’s aces at eliciting emotions more effectively than two-dimensional media. The ability to look around, even as a bystander—to see the traffic on the road and the driver ineptly shifting gears—makes the tension more intense and palpable as the crash nears.
The PSA’s creators, led by New York advertising agency VaynerMedia, are banking on that immersion. “What you want is for the user to feel what the experience is like in that car,” says director Jason Beauregard. “That sensation and feeling comes from the experience hitting your emotional receptors. It heightens your senses in a way you don’t get with conventional film, and you really feel that with the twist in the end, when essentially you, as a viewer but also a character, die.”
Beauregard used a high-end, 24-camera Jaunt ONE system designed specifically for capturing high-speed VR content, and a Sony A7-based array well-suited to low-light filming. The film’s end might not earn an “R” rating, but it’s grisly and evocative. Diageo hopes it’s just harrowing enough to convince people to keep this virtual experience from coming to life.