Virtual Reality and the Future of Storytelling
I’m a newbie to virtual reality storytelling so I'm always looking for inspiring VR stories to learn more about the craft. I haven’t been impressed. Too often I’ve watched films that don’t use the full 360-view or showcase the technology without a story. But then this past October I visited the Future of Storytelling Summit in New York, where I was blown away by VR stories being produced in conjunction with nonprofits. The following three films were my favorites. Watching the stories on a computer or mobile phone doesn't do justice to the VR experience, but hopefully these videos will inspire you to seek out more excellent virtual reality work.
"Tree" and conservation partner the Rainforest Alliance
"Tree" was easily the most popular virtual reality film at the summit; there was an hours-long waiting list to experience the story. It was totally worth it. You put on a VR headset, a small backpack and gloves, and find yourself transformed into a tree. Your arms and head are the branches and your body is the trunk. You start out as a seedling pushing through the earth and grow into a full tree experiencing the best and worst of life.
Film website: https://www.treeofficial.com/
"Lala" and the USC Shoah Foundation
This animated true story about a Holocaust survivor makes excellent use of color, sound, and the full 360-degree screen. I found myself constantly turning around to see the other views in the story, from barbed wire around a Polish ghetto to the house where Lala lives with her human family.
Film website: http://iwitness.usc.edu/SFI/Sites/360/
"Notes to my Father" and the My Choices Foundation
This film mixes documentary and theatre techniques to tell the true story of a child trafficking survivor and her father. It's slow in a good way, using many empty spaces to reinforce a feeling of loss and detachment. One thing I appreciate about this film is the use of ambient sound. With VR films, it can be difficult to make sound sound like it's coming from the right direction as the viewer moves around to view all the film's angles. This one is spot-on.
Film website: http://notestomyfathervrfilm.com/
Top image: Screen shot from the virtual reality film "Tree" by New Reality Company.