A year ago Emmy award-winning Oculus Story Studio used the Sundance Film Festival to announce its third virtual reality (VR) feature Dear Angelica. Part of a joint reveal alongside the software that created it Quill, over the last 12 months the studio has released snippets of a title that touches on aspects of life most will be familiar with, love, loss and family.
Dear Angelica takes a completely different path to Oculus Story Studio’s previous animated films Henry and Lost, in terms of design and story implementation. Rather than a full blown 3D animation, Dear Angelica goes for a set scene approach, fading into each one as Mae Whitman narrates viewers through a very personal and touching journey.
To set the scene Dear Angelica is a mother and daughter story, with the daughter (Whitman) reliving memories about her mum Angelica (voiced by Geena Davis). Trying not to spoil too much, Angelica was an actress and these memories revolve around some of the movies she starred in.
Putting the story to one side for a moment, the film certainly is a showcase for Quill. Asked whether you want a standing or seated experience – choose standing its feels far more immersive and you can appreciate the design more – the first scene appears out of the darkness, a vibrant assortment of colours and shapes. Each scene grows in and out of each other, creating an organic process that feels natural and smooth. The brush strokes flow in and around each other, building a visceral treat for the eyes. As you explore each memory, moving around to see each sweeping line, don’t forget to actually move into each illustration which will pull back the outer layers of design, showcasing how these hand painted scenes were meticulously created.
Moving around these memories that morph and change around you looks fantastic, Oculus Story Studio has done a stellar job of creating an engaging experience just on visuals alone, let alone adding in the voice over work and other audio effects. There’s just one problem, generally in films there are standout moments, a point of discussion where viewers ‘go did you see that bit!’ or ‘keep an eye out for that’, Dear Angelica doesn’t have that moment.
And while the story line is beautifully touching at points, Dear Angelica does continue an on going theme in VR animated shorts, everything always seems to be so somber. Henry, Penrose Studios’ Allumette and others are incredibly dramatic – as if trying to prove the medium is a serious art form (which it is). The former does have some lighthearted moments, which Dear Angelica at certain moments could do with, as some of the bolder imagery really looks more joyous than it actually feels.
Hopefully Dear Angelica is just the first of many Quill created films from Oculus Story Studio, as the software has a dynamic all its own. It’s another experience to showcase the power of VR, and should be in every Oculus Rift owners library when demoing the technology to those new to VR.