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Pixar Co-Founder: VR Isn’t Storytelling, but Experiments Should Continue

Virtual reality (VR) is slowly but surely making progress when it comes to films. Earlier this year Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) creator Oculus VR lifted the lid on Oculus Story Studio, a film focused division of the company looking to find the best practises for VR filmmaking. Meanwhile, 360 degree capture tech continues to improve, while other industry figureheads have expressed a fondness for VR tech. Not everyone is convincing of VR’s potential to impact the film industry however, including Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull.

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Speaking to The Guardian, Catmull explained that, in his opinion, using VR wasn’t storytelling. “It’s not storytelling,” he said. “People have been trying to do [virtual reality] storytelling for 40 years. They haven’t succeeded. Why is that? Because we know that if they succeed then people would jump on it.” He later explained he though VR was ‘good’ but still didn’t qualify as a valid way to tell stories, noting that, like books differing from movies, it didn’t have to be.

Despite this, Catmull does think that experiments within VR storytelling should continue to be carried out. “I know there’s talk of it, but I don’t think it’s actually based on our way of connecting with each other. Having said that, I think they should keep running the experiments. But the fact that we should run the experiments and the fact that the technology has changed doesn’t mean that it’s going to end up where they think it is,” he said.

Catmull may still need some convincing on the power of VR, then, but not everyone that has a history with Pixar does. In fact Saschka Unseld, one of the studio’s former cinematographers and director of its 2013 short, The Blue Umbrella, is now a part of Oculus Story Studio working on new projects such as Lost. Some of the studio’s efforts such as Henry also take clear influence from Pixar itself.

Expect to see plenty more VR storytelling projects revealed in 2016, despite Catmull’s comments. VRFocus will be covering all over them.