January 29, 2015
Oculus VR is expanding its focus from video games to virtual reality films. The Facebook-owned Oculus has created a new in-house movie studio called Story Studio to create films and find the best practices for VR storytelling. The new content created by Story Studio intends to help attract more users to the Oculus Rift headset, while also encouraging other filmmakers to make similar VR films. Story Studio’s first work is a short film called “Lost,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.
Currently, Story Studio is a small team with a lot of filmmaking and storytelling experience. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The group of roughly 10 people includes several veterans of Pixar Animation Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd., including Saschka Unseld, the creative director, a former cinematographer at Pixar Animation Studios, and Maxwell Planck, a supervising technical director and another Pixar veteran.”
Oculus is hoping that more high-quality content will attract more users to the Oculus Rift. With more users, other filmmakers will be more likely to create films for the platform. Story Studio will continue to experiment with storytelling practices, so that other studios will have a clearer picture of how to use VR to convey their stories.
In Studio Story’s first film “Lost,” the creators struggled with balancing the user’s freedom to roam in the virtual environment and the need to tell the story.
The animated short takes viewers to a forest where a robot hand tries to find its owner. The film is unique in that it is interactive. The experience could run anywhere from three-and-a-half minutes to ten minutes based on how the user interacts with the experience, reports The Verge. For example, the robot hand only pops up if the user looks at it and the firefly character responds to the user’s movements in real time.
However, not all VR films will have this level of interactivity. “Often when I talk to people about VR storytelling it takes a while for everyone to understand there’s lots of parallel tracks,” Unseld said in The Verge. “There’s things that can be more interactive, things that are less interactive. There’s things that are more exploratory, there’s things that are more linear.”
Viewers may be able to see some of those different experiences with the next four VR releases from Studio Story, which are expected to be released this year.
Video Feature: Signs That Virtual Reality is on the Verge of Taking Off, The New York Times, 1/28/15
The First Live VR Broadcast Brought the Beach to My Backyard, Engadget, 1/26/15
Filmmakers Need a Virtual Reality Editing Suite, So Visionary VR Built It, TechCrunch, 1/25/15
Mozilla Wants to Bring Virtual Reality to the Browser, TechCrunch, 1/24/15
Is Virtual Reality the Future of News?, The Independent, 1/23/15