Oculus, the Facebook-owned company that’s building a virtual reality headset, is making its own virtual reality movies now. It just announced a new in-house team called the Oculus Story Studio to spearhead the project.
The first movie from Story Studio is called “Lost,” and it’s directed by Pixar animator Saschka Unseld, the man who made the Pixar short “The Blue Umbrella,” which was shown before “Monsters University.”
Like Pixar’s films, “Lost” will be entirely computer-generated rather than live action. This will likely make for a heightened feeling of immersion, as live-action content shown on the Rift is still pretty rough, and it’s easier for the brain to believe a fully rendered environment.
“We all heard these stories of how it was like to be there at the birth of computer animation, or see films on how it was to be there at the birth of cinema,” Unseld recently told The Verge. “And when I tried out VR the first time, and everyone here, they realised this is that moment. This is the moment of a birth of a completely new medium. That made me just instantly jump on it.”
“Lost” will debut at Sundance this week, and will offer a virtual reality short story that will last about five minutes, though it’s an experience that’s designed to respond to the pace of the viewer. If you take your time, it could be up to 10 minutes.
Unseld and the Oculus Story Studio team hope to tackle some of the biggest questions of bringing storytelling into the realm of virtual reality. Traditionally, a director can decide when and what a viewer sees onscreen. But that goes out the door in VR, where people can gaze around them freely. This requires a different style of storytelling, but it also opens up the doors for what’s possible.
Here’s one example: Instead of jump-cutting to a scary monster like horror films usually do, VR directors could theoretically use sounds or distractions to cause a viewer to look in a specific area of the room, and sneak in the monster only when the viewer is looking away. Talk about the potential for realistic terror.
People will be able to sign up to watch “Lost” at Sundance, where it will be shown on the latest Oculus Rift prototype, Crescent Bay. Oculus has promised additional films as well as the opportunity for outside filmmakers to one day distribute content as well.
While it’s still early days for VR films, Oculus joining the fray early on will only help set the standard for what’s possible with virtual reality storytelling, and that can only be a good thing.
Films in the future are going to be insane.