Oculus VR is now making films in-house

Story Studio, led by Pixar veterans, just debuted its first animated short at the Sundance Film Festival

By Matthew Handrahan.Published Tuesday 27th January 2015, 11:59am GMT

The importance of cinema to the future of the Oculus Rift was given a public face at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday, as Oculus VR unveiled the first project created by its in-house film production studio.

"Lost" is an animated film created specifically for VR, and the first effort from a specialist division within Oculus called "Story Studio." According to a report from Variety, Lost is intended to unfold in about five minutes, with the viewer able to move, crouch and pause the action in its 360-degree environment.

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Story Studio has several other projects in development - three of which are called Bullfighter, Henry and Dear Angelica - all of which are intended to be content for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift. For now, the division will focus on animated experiences.

"'Lost' is intended to unfold in about five minutes, with the viewer able to move, crouch and pause the action in its 360-degree environment"

The talent is certainly there, with the spine of the Story Studio team coming from Pixar, the revered animation house. Saschka Unseld, Story Studio's creative director, was a cinematographer for Pixar for six years, while its technical director, Maxwell Planck, worked in a similar role on projects like Cars and Wall.E.

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However, in an interview with Techcrunch, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe indicated that Story Studio's mandate to create animated films for consumers is supplemented by a more instructional objective.

In simple terms, "We didn't have an answer for how to get started in VR for cinema," Iribe said, and so Story Studio's work will also serve as a demonstration to existing film companies with an interest in using VR technology. Iribe also suggested that the impetus for creating Story Studio partially came from the results of in-house attempts to create VR games, some of which had more in common with a less interactive medium like cinema.

The potential of the Oculus Rift to disrupt other forms of entertainment has been apparent for some time now, and the company has been in attendance at events like Sundance, South by Southwest and the Tribeca Film Festival for several years already.

Indeed, in the course of researching an article on the design issues facing developers of VR games last year, it became apparent that more passive audience experiences like cinema or pop concerts may be less challenging for creators. As GamesIndustry.biz learned from a number of developers, the biggest problems arise mainly through giving the user freedom of movement - an essential component of most existing game genres.

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