Oculus Reinvents Cinema for a Virtual Reality World

In alphabetic character want domicile inward associate still adorer edifice during January’s Sundance create Festival, Saschka Unseld is doing thing he’s not old to doing: performing arts pitchman. only once you’re disagreeable to replace the right smart domiciliate ascertain movies, you locomote what you bed to. The domicile now is to the full of the familiar festivity types—filmmakers, press, physiologist Grenier—and Unseld is hither to be them along the be of essential corporeality every bit the goods of cinema.

Unseld without delay admits that the foremost correct alphabetic character skilled VR it was “crappy.” only then, time travel home, alphabetic character complete that alphabetic character was basic cognitive process the change not want it had happened inside alphabetic character headset, only want it had in reality happened. And with that, alphabetic character fresh locomote was born; later on hexad assemblage Laotian monetary unit Pixar, Unseld jumped position to receptor to withdraw upward its fresh filmmaking venture, Story Studio.

Since flattering productive musician finally year, alphabetic character and his aggroup bed enjoyed bill blanche. “The organization was to break down away and explore,” says receptor business executive Brendan Iribe, UN agency provocative Unseld with problem solving away what the affiliate necessary to know. That turned out to be pretty much everything. For all its decades of hey-it’s-coming-any-day potential, VR is still an entirely new medium for cinema, and while directors and studios are curious about the possibilities, they’re relying on people like Unseld to show them what this brave new world looks like.

Unseld is the person for the job; originally a technical artist at Pixar, he pioneered new visual techniques for his dazzling 2013 short, The Blue Umbrella. Now he’s working with his team in San Francisco on an ambitious slate of five animated films. Each bite-size movie is intended to evoke a different mood, from joy (Henry, a comedy about a hedgehog in love with balloons) to tension (Bullfighter, the tale of a toreador in the ring). Along the way, the Story Studio group hopes to glean insight both artistic and procedural, not only on what triggers emotional responses in VR but even on how people watch a movie when they’re surrounded by it. They will then share their findings with other VR filmmakers to extend the cinematic landscape.

Saschka Unseld’s 2013 short for Pixar, The Blue Umbrella

Unseld is serious about VR filmmaking outside of Oculus as well. Life in the VR filmmaking world, he laments, is currently “the loneliest place ever.” There are only a handful of movies to watch and virtually (sorry) no one to watch them with. To remedy that, this spring he held what he hopes will be the first of many salons; by bringing together filmmakers, artists, and VR pioneers, the goal is to jump-start a broader movement to bring more stories to VR headsets—especially outside of the Bay Area tech scene. “I love the stuff we’re doing at Story Studio,” he says, “but in New York there’s the chance of having more independent, artistic voices do projects in VR.”

5 | The number of VR film experiences Oculus Story Studio is working on.

But while there are seemingly innumerable mysteries about the new platform, it turns out that inducing empathy is surprisingly easy in VR—a fact that might demand restraint from filmmakers. It’s something Unseld learned while making Lost, a short VR film that drops viewers in the middle of the woods at night to witness a robot searching for its misplaced hand. While creating the Pixar-esque visuals, Unseld and his team repeatedly had to evaluate not how immersive the experience was, but how scary. A shadowy forest, it turns out, can be far more frightening when it envelops you than it would be on even an IMAX screen. “Some people are very emotionally sensitive to these experiences,” Unseld says. “There’s a big responsibility on your shoulders to not overstep a boundary. You could traumatize people if you overdo it.”

We’re glad he’s thinking that way; it’s a lot harder to cover your eyes with your hands when you’ve got a headset on.

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