Porn Star Ela Darling Talk About Virtual Reality Porn Experience

Porn Star Ela Darling Talk About Virtual Porn Experience

Right after Ela Darling boasts about being the star of the least fun porno she’s ever watched, she eyeballs a jumping toddler just a few feet away from our table. “I feel really weird talking about this with a child next to us,” she says softly, deciding she’s got to come up with a code word for porn.

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It’s a reaction which could easily be interpreted as shame, but the former librarian isn’t the least bit shy about her eight-plus years in the adult entertainment industry. Darling takes full, proud ownership over her body and the choices she’s made with it. She’s well-versed in all things pornographic and can quickly switch gears from chatting about hard core bondage in a fetish shoot to the politics behind the industry’s battle with forced condom use and STD testing.

 

 

If there were such a thing as a “normal” porn star, Darling would certainly defy that logic. With an undergrad degree in forensic psychology and a master’s in library science, the 31-year-old became a name in the industry as the world’s first virtual reality cam performer. With too many tattoos to be the girl next door, and too few to be full-fledged alt, Darling capitalized on her inner geek to build her brand. Her true nerd fandom for Star Trek and Harry Potter helped her connect with and relate to viewers. It also kept her young. She jokes that she’s probably done her first teen lesbian experience at least a half dozen times since she began shooting porn at 23.

 

 

These days, though, she’s mostly retired from any on-camera work, serving instead as the VR creative director of the award-winning and largest adult camming website Cam4. She’s become a spokesperson for the platform, giving talks, including a TEDx, around the world at technology and pornography events.  

Her “if you build it they will come” VR career origin story began four and a half years ago, after briefly trying virtual reality at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It was then Darling single-mindedly set out to create her own opportunities where none would have existed otherwise.

“I really wanted to do VR porn, but I wasn’t some big superstar and the studios that were up and coming weren’t going to call my dumbass to come out and shoot for them,” she says. “So when I saw someone post on Reddit about wanting to make VR porn I was like, fuck yes, hell yes, I want to do this.”

That someone was James Ashfield who, at the time, was a 20-year-old junior studying physics at the University of Maryland. He flew Darling out to D.C., and when she arrived, she was unsure the baby-faced handsome young man she encountered was even old enough to buy porn, nonetheless film it. The situation became even more slapstick when he drove her to his dormitory, where the filming was to take place, and his roommates were playing Dungeons and Dragons. Luckily for Ashfield, Darling is a big fan of the fantasy role playing game.

“I was like hell yeah, Dungeons and Dragons, what’s up guys,” she says.

James was just as pleasantly surprised by Darling. “I had really been expecting someone who was going to be a pain to be around, someone who is uninvested and uninterested in creating a good product,” he explains. “Ela, however, was none of those things. She’s a brilliant, caring individual who is a pleasure to be around. It’s my honor to work with her.”

Just two months after the two filmed Darling’s first 15-minute VR porn scene, Ashfield proposed they become equal partners in his business, VRTube. Fast forward three years, and the duo have gone from a GoPro jerry-rigged with hope and putty to a patented camera and 3D 360-degree capture approach that wows even jaded VR experts.

“Our camera actually lets you get closer than any other camera on the market,” explains Darling. Whereas other equipment available requires the subject to be about three feet away, their device allows performers to get within six inches of the lens—closer than you’d get to someone in polite conversation. It also immediately stitches the image, enabling users to both broadcast and record independently or at the same time.

According to Darling, the result is an incredibly human, intimate, and compelling porn experience, for both the performer and the viewer. “When you’re watching something on a screen, it’s in a box,” she explains. “Whether it’s in the little YouTube window or an enlarged window or just the square of your screen, it’s in a fucking box and you can never achieve the same sense of connection with another person when you’re just watching them in a little box and you look around and you’re still in your fucking living room or bedroom.”

 

 

When Darling was in front of the camera, if her audience happened to peel their eyes away from whatever girl-on-girl or solo masturbation scene she was performing, they’d have found themselves transported to her actual bedroom, complete with a human skull resting on a bookshelf, watched over by a creepy mannequin wearing a gas mask. Darling likes her BDSM with a strong dash of bizarre.

Now happy to be cheering from behind the scenes, Darling admits that even she still gets a little twitterpated when she watches her performers work. Instead of feeling like you’re talking to a stranger, the VR platform allows for a more accelerated and engaging connection. And because, like her, most performers shoot from their own homes, viewers are able to get a quick and clear sense of who that person is. “It’s hard to put into words,” Darling says. “But when you experience it, it’s just there, you just get it.”

And even then, some users have a hard time believing what they’re seeing. When Darling offered demos at the annual tech conference South by Southwest, people couldn’t help but assume that the performer was not a real person. “Oh, wow, that’s really convincing,” was a common reaction, even after Darling told them they were watching a live VR experience.

Her favorite moments are when people she’s met through the virtual reality community test her product. If she can impress someone who has VR experience, she knows she’s on the right track.

“When they try it, they are fucking blown away because the quality of the camera and the proximity of the camera are things that you just don’t find anywhere else,” explains Darling. “And they’re like, ‘Holy shit, I know you did porn, but what is this? Did you make this? What is going on here?’

 

“That’s really validating because those are people whose opinions I very much value,” she continues. “They see something really great in what we’re doing, beyond the scope of the content, which I feel like can hinder it sometimes.”  

Part of the reason Darling and Ashfield have been so successful at creating and developing VR equipment and content is that they’re a team of two who are not only business partners, but also roommates. While adult use of their technology is licensed to Cam4, they have complete autonomy when it comes to choosing the direction they want to move in. They’re also quick learners, fast to move on from an iteration when they feel it’s not working.

Take their holographic dating simulator, for instance, which allowed users to engage with a static, pre-recorded image of Darling. They could ask her questions or make comments, and if they were too sexual or too forward too quickly, she’d shoot ‘em down and say goodbye. If they took their time and properly got to know her, however, there was a chance she’d take them home.

“James is a coding genius,” Darling says. “I should really impart that he is the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life. He makes things happen in a really short time.”  

Case in point, the camera Ashfield and Darling currently use went from concept to launch in just six weeks. It’s designed to shoot from the inside out and takes a 360-degree photograph of the space the performer is in, over which the live content is then broadcast. A very intentional decision was made to not include avatars for the end users, as Darling doesn’t want to force people to choose from what would ultimately be a limited range of bodies. For her, no one should ever put on a headset and feel like the porn she creates wasn’t made for their race, their body type, or their gender.

But it’s not just a superior technology and design that make for an immersive VR cam experience. Virtual reality raises the bar for performers, requiring them to master a different set of best practices and learn a completely new style of artistry.

“VR raises the skill level that you need to have to be successful, which I think is good, because anyone can come and get naked and fuck the camera—that doesn’t mean they should, that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for them and it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the thing that they’re going to be happy about later,” Darling says. “I think anything that makes it a little harder to get into the industry is really good—it creates new opportunity.”  

Which takes us back to that not-fun porno. It was one of the first 3D 360-degree scenes she’d ever filmed, and the reason it was “so fucking bad,” as Darling puts it, is because she was engaging with this entirely new medium through the lens of the previous one. By approaching it as she would a regular 2D porno, she created something that was uncomfortably voyeuristic and without any sex appeal.    

“When you’re making content for VR, you can’t just make something cool to look at, you have to make it interactive or you have to be able to walk around and engage somehow,” Darling explains. “It’s really closer to creating a theatrical production because you have space and time, but you don’t have the ability to guide the person’s view the way you do when you’re shooting a video.”

Darling has traveled a long way from a novice in Ashfield’s dorm room to a self-critical performer to a fiercely competitive leader in the field of, not just VR porn, but of virtual reality in general. Listening her speak about her craft is like watching a match touch dry kindling—she’s incredibly passionate and proud of what she creates, in spite of its primary use as jerk-off fodder. And she has a few choice words for those who judge her and the quality of her work based on the subject of the content.

“I don’t need you to know my hopes and dreams,” she says. “In fact, it’s none of your fucking business. I’m here to show you my tits, and if you want more than that, that’s a different discussion.”

Original Article From Daily Dot 

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Author: VR Reporter

I am a hi-tech enthusiast, VR evangelist, and a Co-founder & Chief Director at Virtual Reality Reporter!

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