Today Oculus Story Studio is premiering their second made-for-VR short film called Henry, a tale about a not-so-cuddly porcupine who, in a cruel twist of fate, wants nothing more than the embrace of a friend. With the premiere of the film, Oculus has revealed a new featurette which gives us a closer look at the interactive VR film.
While 360 degree video recordings are quite common for those working on cinematic VR experiences, Story Studio is dedicated to creating real-time CGI experiences. The aesthetics may be Pixar-like, but rather than pre-rendered frames, the studio’s ‘movies’ are actually being rendered on the fly every time they’re watched. Henry’s decidedly-Pixar aesthetic is no coincidence. When forming Story Studio, Oculus tapped Pixar talent to fill several key roles.
While rendering the film in real-time necessitates a beefy computer to power the experience, it also means that the film can react to viewers in a way that’s not possible with pre-rendered footage. For instance, Henry can gaze directly at the viewer, follow their head movement precisely, or even know whether or not the viewer is looking at him. Further, the real-time scene means that users can have a level of interactivity not possible in traditional film—like shaking their head yes or no to communicate with characters, or to look around the scene as they please, with the ability to lean around corners, under tables, etc.
There’s also important technical benefits to real-time rendered CGI, like the ability to recreate the audio based on the precise head movements of the viewer, and render the scene in 3D perhaps more accurately than any other solution.
Real-time CGI for VR film is not without its drawbacks, but Story Studio has dedicated itself to this path for the time being. The studio has a number of other projects in the works that are expected to use the same method.