The announcement of Oculus Story Studio at the Sundance festival, Utah, back in January of this year took many by surprise. It’s common knowledge that Oculus VR is working on their own applications and videogames for use exclusively in virtual reality (VR), but a motion-picture studio also? That was a left-field reveal, but their first project, Lost, is all the convincing anyone could need.
An entirely non-interactive experience, Lost is a story that happens with you in it, whether you want it to or not. Time is always marching on and so is the case with Lost, but while life moves so fast you can miss the important things Lost is so designed to ensure that you don’t.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about how to ensure that the viewer of a VR motion-picture is looking in the right direction. When they have a full 360-degree field of view how can you direct their attention to where the action is taking place? Put simply, exactly the same way you would in real life.
Lost tells the story of a mechanical hand given life in a similar vein to a Pixar inanimate object and desperate to find a way back to where it belongs. The first time the hand grabs your attention is by way of a rustling in the bushes, perfectly positioned thanks to the head-related transfer audio (HRTF) included on the CrescentBay head-mounted display (HMD). Subsequently it uses lights and other sounds to draw you attention as well as the most immediate indicator available in gestures: pointing.
Clearly inspired by The Iron Giant, Lost‘s final moment is one that surprises and excites. The conclusion of a short piece of cinema sums up a work that is both derivative and progressive in the same small space of time. There is no dialogue, there is barely a narrative, there are no actors, no scene changes, no props. And yet it remains fresh. It remains inspiring. It remains a glimpse at the potential future of cinema in 360 degree VR.