After Facebook paid 2 billion dollar to take over the company Oculus VR in March 2014 , the head-mounted display named Oculus Rift became world famous practically overnight. By the end of 2016, there is hardly a technology festival, ICT conference or communication symposium left in the world that does not offer special demo sessions on the wonders of virtual reality (VR). While this term has already been in use for several decades, traditionally referring to all kinds of experiences that are linked to internet, videogames or cyberspace, it currently seems to be used specifically to those kind of experiences in which the user is immersed in a virtual 360° environment, using a head-mounted display such as Oculus Rift. So in the current context, when I refer to VR, I am also talking about surround media experiences. Since 2014, a range of other displays have been introduced that offer similar experiences as Oculus Rift, such as the Samsung Gear VR, the HTC Vive, or the basic but suprisingly effective cardboard viewers . While the technological developments are moving ahead with dazzling speed, continously examining new features, the need for engaging or useful content that can be viewed in 360° environments expands accordingly. Interested parties from all kinds of backgrounds eagerly follow the latest explorations into VR to determine how it may be used for their specific purposes. However, while the technology races ahead and VR companies are being overflown with requests to create ‘immersive’ VR experiences for all kinds of commercial or serious purposes, the real knowledge on how to produce VR content is developing at a somewhat slower pace. Especially the kind of VR experience that is referred to as cinematic VR or surround video, in which the VR world is not computer-generated but filmed in a real life environment, poses all kinds of intriguing questions that VR developers all over the world are just starting to unravel. Not only does the production of a movie like that involve problems with for instance setdressing, lighting and directing of the actors, but also scriptwriters, editors and sound designers are facing new challenges that are inherent to the medium.
In this half day workshop, I will first present a short overview of our previous studies into content creation and storytelling for 360° [3, 4], and explain the challenges and possibilities that we came across. I will also give a review of some VR studios around the world, such as the Oculus Story Studio, that are experimenting with VR, and discussing their findings online. Next, we will discuss the attendants’ own earlier experiences with 360°, video content, and invite them to reflect on the narrative aspects that they have encountered there. We will talk about the new type of engagement between the viewer, the movie, the story and the characters within that story. Also the possibilities for interactive storytelling that this medium provides will be discussed. Immersion, presence and empathy Important concepts that currently come up often in discussions on virtual reality are immersion, presence and empathy. We will watch some examples of surround footage and discuss how these concepts are related to what we see and feel, when viewing a 360° video. In the second part of the workshop, attendants will be asked to think of possible settings in which a 360° narrative could be placed, taking into account the production boundaries that were discussed earlier. We will discuss the settings, think of story concepts that might be written for these particular settings, practice with and analyze other concepts. Note that in this workshop the focus will be on developing and analyzing concepts and narratives, rather than on dealing with technical issues.
1. Facebook closes its $2bn Oculus Rift acquisition. What next?
2. Eadicicco, L. Virtual Reality Buyer’s Guide: Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive vs. Samsung Gear VR. http://time.com/4277763/virtua
3. Vosmeer, M., Roth, C. and Schouten, B. Interaction in Surround Video: The Effect of Auditory Feedback on Enjoyment. In: Schoenau-Fog, H., Bruni, L.E., Louchart, S., Baceviciute, S. (eds.) ICIDS 2015. LNCS, vol. 9445, pp 202-210. Springer, Heidelberg (2015)
4. Vosmeer, M. and Schouten, B. Interactive Cinema: Engagement and Interaction. In: Mitchell, A., Fernandez-Vara, C., Thue, D. (eds.) ICIDS 2014. LNCS, vol. 8832, pp 140-147. Springer, Heidelberg (2014)
Mirjam Vosmeer, PhD. Senior researcher, Amsterdam University of Applied