Quill, Facebook’s VR painting tool, has been a great way to sketch in VR since its launch back at the end of 2016, but today a new update transforms it into something entirely new. Now, with tools for animating Quill artwork directly in the app, users have a new dimension for artistic expression: time.
If you’ve ever made a stick figure flip book using the corner of a notebook or a stack of sticky notes, you already understand the fundamentals of key frame animation: arrange a sequence of slightly changing pictures back to back and watch them come to life as you quickly flip through.
That’s the foundation of today’s Quill update, which Facebook says is the biggest to date. The program now includes a set of animation tools which will let you draw and arrange discrete frames into animation sequences. With helpful tools to visualize previous frames and quickly create new ones, artists will be able to express not just a moment in time, but an entire scene. This video gives a glimpse of the new tools in action:
Facebook says that the in-VR animation tools bring major time savings compared to using a combination of VR and traditional animation software. With direct access to animation tools in the app, the update should make VR-drawn animations—like this impressive piece from artist Nick Ladd that we saw last year—easier and faster to produce. Facebook claims that the company’s VR resident artist, Goro Fujita, was “able to complete his animated short film Beyond the Fence in just three weeks, an undertaking that could have lasted over a year with traditional 3D animation software.”
The company also says they’re working to integrate Quill content with Facebook Spaces, so that artists can share their work, and friends can watch stories together; a sensible move considering Quill is being developed under the umbrella of the Facebook Social VR team after the shuttering of Oculus Story Studio, where it was originally conceived. There’s no mention of when Facebook Spaces viewing will be deployed, but the company says they’re in development of that and “many more Quill updates and features” for the future.
Update (2/8/16): An earlier version of this article stated that Quill is being developed by Oculus. While the tool was originally built by the team at Oculus Story Studio, its ongoing development was formally moved to Facebook’s Social VR team after the Story Studio group was closed down in 2017.