Emotional Immersion: How Far Has VR Taken It?
By Trenton Morgan
Virtual Reality has come a far way and still has a long way to go. As other forms of media focus on how to become more realistic and how to make a connection with the audience, VR has a slightly new frontier. Although I’ve wept to a fair amount of movies (mostly when a pet is killed off), VR’s potential to encapsulate you in a film is something that I can’t say any other form of media has done for me. Below are a few of my thoughts in the order that I viewed a few VR films and animations that are available.
Of course, each experience comes down to personal style, preference and expectations. Being new to VR and being easily impressed in most situations, people can take my experiences and comments as genuine first impressions. Overall, I don’t think any of my experiences were bad, but the nausea from doing VR for about three hours is still settling.
Allumette by Eugene Chung at Penrose Studios
Allumette was astonishing. The aesthetic and feeling that Penrose created was sincere. In the film, I really enjoyed was the fact that the characters didn’t stop when they were not in view. In one scene, Allumette and her mother are on their boat. I could peer through the walls of the boat by sticking my head forward and the mother was working diligently inside. When I pulled my head backward, I could refocus on Allumette enjoying the view and then enjoy it with her. The attention to detail between clothing, emotions, lessons and character development were by far the greatest, and I felt myself extremely immersed in the film. My emotionally immersive opinion is equal to the fiery burning passion of lighting a match.
Please State Your Name by Jak Wilmot at StudioDisrupt!
The film was cute and fun. The characters were lovable and well-constructed. However, I found myself not really being able to feel immersed for a few reasons. The things I noticed were one of the robots at the beginning was standing below the floor, as in its legs were being cut off; the giant magnet that swept through and its cables went through the beams overhead; some of the transitions were abrupt, so I had to quickly re-familiarize myself to understand what was going on in the scene. I enjoyed being close to the action, but those few things broke the illusion for me. My emotionally immersive scale would weigh in as one of the cardboard boxes in the film that missed its target.
Colosse by Colosse Team
I loved the style of this piece. The colors were vibrant and the scenes were beautiful. The story did leave me feeling incomplete. I felt invested at the beginning, but the end seemed to have a smaller effect than I expected from the beginning. Still, I did feel as though I was there and that the looming giant caused the room to shake. My emotionally immersive feeling had me as one of the obscure carvings on the cavern wall.
Henry by Oculus Story Studio
Henry was another very cute story. The music and narrative made the entire vibe wholesome, and I even caught myself bouncing to the music at one point because I could feel the excitement. However, I saw one of Henry’s spikes go through his eye, removing me from the immersion. I then found myself wondering how to get to one area in his home because there were no visible stairs or ladders. It seemed that I could not change my view as much, so some scenes were blocked off from my sight, but that could also have been due to my space limitations. I would say Henry did a fantastic job at expressing feelings. My emotionally immersive scale is pretty high at bouncing along with the balloon animals.
The Rose and I by Eugene Chung at Penrose Studios
Amazing and precise artwork and concept. The story was complete, but it didn’t feel satisfying I think. It was like a simple sentence. However, that isn’t a bad thing. I thought that the graphics and space were beautiful, but I think that is all I was feeling. I would still say I felt immersed and connected to it though. My emotionally immersive feeling was good enough that I tried to peer into the small moon in front of me to only be welcomed by darkness.
INVASION! by Baobab Studios
Wholesome is how I feel. The art style matches the film, bubbly and cute. I feel as though this was a complete short film with a protagonist, antagonist and a plot. The emotive of the main character, a sweet bunny, really drove it home for me. I found myself instantly enamored by this bunny, as well as the perspective of being just his height and seeing the huge world around me. The film also used space (literally) very well. Audio and visual depth felt so authentic and I really felt like I was there. My emotionally immersive scale is that I felt as though I was also a tiny bunny and was making the exact same expressions the entire time.
LOST by Oculus Story Studio
I would say it was an immersive experience. I felt like I was there, I could feel emotion through the hand on the screen, and the audio/composition was so on point with the feelings that needed to be happening. There was an amazing mix of perspective and sound creating the experience, but what it lacked was a story. It felt more like a situation; a kind of a small mishap rather than a story. I really enjoyed it, but it may also have been the nostalgia of the Iron Giant coming back. For that, my emotionally immersive scale comes to the quote, “You are who you choose to be.”
In closing, I think that all of these films were great and still have a lot to offer. Most of them are from 2016, and there have been more released since then and even more to come. This means that the art is only to be perfected. The untapped potential of VR is unfolding as each year goes by. So, thank you to all the amazing artists that work to bring these great universes alive. I thoroughly enjoyed every one of the films, and I can’t wait to see where this goes.
For more information on 2018 VR films and projects, visit the Tribeca Immersive website.