Acclaimed author Khaled Hosseini’s short story inspired by Alan Kurdi—the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015—has been illustrated using Tilt Brush for a unique 360 degree short film. Sea Prayer is the latest of several thought-provoking VR experiences from The Guardian VR team.

The seven minute piece is viewable on The Guardian’s website via a YouTube 360 video link, or on the native The Guardian VR Daydream app. The narration is accompanied by an illustration that slowly builds around the viewer, combined with spatial audio effects that help to focus the viewer’s attention in the most relevant direction. The artwork was created in-house by the Guardian VR team, in collaboration with VR artist Liz Edwards.

Image courtesy The Guardian

According to the press release provided to Road to VR, Sea Prayer claims to be “the first narrative animated virtual reality film created using Tilt Brush,” Google’s popular VR painting tool. The effect has similarities with the hand-illustrated, narrative experience of Dear Angelica (2017), a short film created by Oculus Story Studio using Quill, another creative VR app. Unfortunately, the conversion to 360-degree video, while vastly broadening Sea Prayer’s potential audience, has a detrimental impact on the quality of the image compared to the real-time brush-stroke rendering seen in Dear Angelica. Sadly it doesn’t appear that a real-time version based on the original Tilt Brush rendering is available at present.

This Impressive Short Film Was Drawn and Animated Entirely Inside of VR

Technical shortcomings aside, the effect of virtual brush strokes combined with a powerful story is profound. The presentation gracefully commemorates the second anniversary of the tragic death of Alan Kurdi, and raises awareness of the plight of refugees who continue to attempt these dangerous sea crossings to Europe.

“We’re delighted to have been able to work with UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini to bring his incredibly sensitive imaging of a letter from a Syrian father to his son to life,” said Francesca Panetta, executive editor, virtual reality, Guardian News & Media. “Using Tilt Brush technology for the first time in this way, Sea Prayer explores a new immersive form – 360 illustrated narratives. We have worked with the best artists in this field to create a story that truly unfolds around the viewer, providing them with insight into the experiences that many migrants are forced to endure when making a dangerous escape from war.”

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  • superdonkey

    the sea crossings are from safe countries like turkey, what are they running away from?
    this is the usual marxist nonsense from the guardian insane asylum.

    • dogtato

      It’s pretty debatable that Turkey is safe, and that’s for its own citizens. Is it safe for refugees from truly unsafe countries like Eritrea and Syria? They aren’t running away from Turkey, they’re just passing through.

      • Havok

        Actually, they are suppose to settle in the first safe country they arrive in.. Passing through shouldnt happen. And its funny how they then take holidays in the country they were running from once they are settled in europe?

        • dogtato

          they’re “supposed” to stay in their home country and die

          which countries are refugees going back to for holidays? You’re being way too broad and vague about that. How long were they away? Did the situation change in the country to make it safer? Is it possible to visit family without getting caught but if you were living there the authorities or gangs or whatever would get you?

          • Mr. New Vegas

            Turkey is as safe as most Eastern European countries (for example) its much safer then Syria or Eritrea EVER WAS during peace.
            When you pick and choose your country of refuge, you’re no longer a refuge but economic migrant, which 99% of them are, picking and choosing countries based on their benefits, which one gives more money and free housing.
            France is pinnacle of safety, yet hundreds of them trying to sneak to UK, because UK has better social security programs and council housing.

    • James Alliban

      Well thank god you’re here with your absolute undeniable 100% facts. It must be wonderful to Know with such unquestionable certainty.

      • Mr. New Vegas

        Seriously? You joined disqus just to leave this one single comment?

        • Gerad Simon

          How does that have any baring on anything? Commenting on articles more often doesn’t in and of itself make you a more knowledgeable person. The fact that you think it does has me and probably a lot of other people questioning your maturity and thus your expertise. Stay on topic and refrain from calling people out for stupid shit like this and you will sway a lot more minds. You did make a couple good points but now you just sound like an idiot here. Just wanted to bring it to your attention for future reference.

  • Mr. New Vegas

    This what we need in VR: More regressive virtue signaling and pandering…