Interactive Cinematic Storytelling
How can you create an interactive story with 360 degree footage for Oculus Rift? In fall 2014 I coached a team of students who worked on this project in collaboration with Lectorate Games&Play’s researcher Mirjam Vosmeer. AVROTROS and their cultural hub VondelCS, and VR pioneers from WeMakeVR.
Using live action 360 degree footage the team created an interactive narrative experience for the Oculus Rift to explore how stories can be told in virtual reality. During the experience, you are not just passively watching a story, but you are a character who can actively influence how the narrative unfolds.
About the film
In A Perfect Party you, as the main character are hosting a get-together for your best friend who wants to propose to his girlfriend. Everything depends on you to make the party a success: potential disaster is everywhere. By looking around and interacting with the environment you may try to prevent things from running out of control. It’s up to you to make this party perfect.
A perfect party was featured at LISFE Leiden International Short Film Experience 2015: http://www.lisfe.nl/lisfe-2015/
What kind of a design process is this?
After hashing out all of the technical particularities of making VR with 360 degree live action footage, we quickly got to the question of how do you even design for this? Students identified links with storytelling, narrative techniques in film (although with heavy limitations because conventional editing is not possible in this case), theater, perhaps subtlemobs or audiowalks and interactive storytelling (basically hyperlinking?). All of these practices have something to bring to live-action 360 degree VR, but the comparisons are far from being one on one.
I think that a few obstructions could be identified that needed to be dealt with creatively:
Nour, one of the students wrote a how-to book on live-action VR dealing with many of these issues, and suggestions for useful approaches. Here’s another few tricks that worked quite well for the team. One was to play out scripts in small handmade miniature sets, to simulate hotspots (areas in the film that are activated when the user is looking at it, the helmet senses head movements), and changes in clips. Movements across the scene, timing of those movements etcetera.
Secondly, we developed a different kind of shotlist. Rather than storyboarding the shots and cameramovements. The team developed a set map, marking the position of the 360 degree camera, the quadrantlines, and room for some notes on the action and movement of actors and vehicles in the scene.
Lastly, flowcharts turned out to be the best way to keep track of keypoints in the storyline and identifying problems with continuity and points-of-no-return.
Students: Nour Tanak, Sammie de Vries, Leon van Oord, Nick Valk, Shenyu Zhang. Researcher: Mirjam Vosmeer, Lectorate Games & Play HvA