The latest Google Spotlight Story came out on Steam yesterday, directed by John Kahrs, the person behind ‘Paperman’. It got a lot of hype at Annecy along with ‘Piggy’, another Spotlight Story I’ll have to write about. I expected to see something just brilliant as ‘Pearl’, the only Google Spotlight Story to have really achieved something so far.
While I didn’t find it as emotionally engaging as Pearl, it certainly had a lot of value in being a VR story.
The beautiful, impressionistic art style, also a strong feature of Pearl, made it a very moving and plaintive place to be, out at sea. I feel it’s a very easy setting to replicate and very effective. At the beginning of the story, we’re belting along the waves, sails billowing, in a flotilla of other sailed vessels while William the captain chants a sea shanty with his two young crew. It’s fantastic.
Despite being set on a ship on rolling waves, you don’t seem to get sea sick. I think this is achieved by keeping you constant in relation to the ship’s speed and direction but constantly level, as if you were mounted on a gimbal.
Kahrs wanted to depict the sea as it is, a harsh and unforgiving place to be. This VR story definitely gets that across in a very romantic way.
Well, this is rather handy isn’t it? I’ve come across most of this terminology in my research, mostly in articles written for mainstream audiences where the author feels the need to spend a paragraph explaining the meaning.
At least I can check my definitions easily and ensure I’m not talking out my arse in my research report.
They invite you to submit additions, so I’ve suggested that Jessica Brillhart’s term ‘The Visitor’ is added. I’ll keep you posted.
Talking to Lynsey on Friday, I told her that my report still hadn’t really made any progress and decided to discus the possibility of writing an editorial report instead of a standard essay. Her response was very positive and has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the project. I feel far more comfortable filling 2000 words with my VR research.
Lynsey told me that the other half of the report would have to be a justification for my article, detailing why I chose a certain publication to write it for, who the target audience would be for the article in terms of readership, circulation and topicality. So I’ll be in the library this week looking at magazines I could write for. I’ll really enjoy the design part of this, I’m imagining I’m gonna have to buy some stock photos for this.
Just tried out this particular VR story and it made me cry very unexpectedly, so it was obviously doing something right. I’m sure if it was a short film, I would not have had the same reaction. A question I shortly answered by finding the theatrical version on YouTube. Huh.
It’s the tale of a single father raising his daughter whilst living from his car. The film uses the model of the car and a music track to keep the visitor grounded and oriented through the timescale of about 25 years. We cut from one touching moment to another, the visitor always sat looking sideways from the passenger seat.
It’s definitely pretty intimate being sat in the car with these characters as they grow up and grow old in the timescale of about 6 mins.
Having a chat with Lynsey today, we rejigged the title of my first chapter. Putting it like that makes it sound like we didn’t achieve much but I assure you it helped.
The first chapter in my plan was ‘The Visitor’ and I wanted to explore the significance of presence in storytelling. Lynsey recommended changing this to ‘Perspective’. What this enables me to do is explore the different kinds of perspective that VR offers between static and mobile, passive and interactive. This is something I hadn’t figured out how to include.
Lynsey encourages me to get a move on and put my thoughts on paper.
Peter has said if I can make a nice motion graphic sting for the Access VFX talk, Saint from VFX will let me come see the VR talk. Decent.
As part of my research into VR storytelling, I’m going to get some first hand feedback on a selection of VR products to identify and analyse techniques used in VR products to propel story. Here are a few I’ve read about or have been recommended to try.
After my tutorial with Peter and Lynsey last week, it was decided it was probably actually best I stuck with my VR topic, so I’ve restructured my rough plan to make a report I think I can produce.
Working Title: The Current Potential of Storytelling in VR
Chapter 1 – The Visitor
Where did VR storytelling start?
Who is the visitor and why is this concept new?
What’s the narrative potential of presence
Chapter 2 – The Language
How do you plan a story in VR?
What devices are currently being used to propel narrative?
How are VR creators leading visitor’s eyes?
Chapter 3 – The Technology
VR Headsets and their future
What’s the importance of dexterity in experiences?
What’s the technical future of 360 degree storytelling?
To make this topic work out for me, I’ve found an alternative way of acquiring a headset to undertake some primary research which will be helpful for the second and third chapters looking at narrative devices and the physical technology.
I plan to select a range of VR story products and a few volunteers to use each of them and give feedback on their experiences.
This hopefully will make my research feel a bit more complete.
Good question. Back in May, I really didn’t have a clue what I was thinking and decided to take up a research report topic that relates to absolutely nothing to what I’m doing in the studio and that hasn’t bothered me until now.
My intended focus on how storytelling will evolve to fit the idea of the ‘visitor’s presence’ in a scene still interests me very much but ultimately, what I have to say doesn’t interest me at all if I haven’t made a VR product myself, like I planned to over summer. My conclusion on VR for now is until we’ve got something better than strapping a screen to our faces, we’re not really going anywhere. I’m praying that soon enough, we’ll be looking back at headsets like ‘Real 3D’ glasses.
So what on earth are you gonna do now, Fin?
I’ve found that most of my ideas for the Personal Showcase project have revolved around a non-fiction or informative theme rather than any character or narrative drive. For a while I thought I really needed to give this up because and come up with a real story because ‘that’s not what animation is about’. But that’s not true.