The Beginning Of Cinematic VR

Introduction:

For too long the animation industry has been split in two. On one hand you have a universe of digital actors playing out impossible scenes while on the other you have real-time graphics breathing life to entire worlds. Now, however, we are at the precipice of something new — a cross between two mediums: games and film. Everyday we are stepping further and further into uncharted territory and slowly entering a reality where we aren’t just witnessing stories… we are experiencing them.

Thanks to platforms like Rift, Vive, and even mobile we are now beginning to see more and more examples of Cinematic VR. Given that the medium is so new, filmmakers and game devs alike are still exploring methods of telling great stories. The biggest question at the moment is, will this medium take off with the same commercial success traditional animation and computer-generated animation eventually found?

If history and prior mediums have anything to say about it, I would think so. For the time being though, it seems VR is still in its infancy; this is why we as content developers need to do all we can to continue pushing the craft. Not only do we need to figure out how to tell our stories in a way that works well for VR but we also need to create content that truly appeals to the masses. Helping in this endeavor is Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin, co-founders of Within, have created a entry point to VR storytelling on virtually every VR platform today.

Within and Why It’s My Favorite App:

As mentioned above, VR in its current state is hardly seen as a narrative art form. But luckily, there are already people (and corporations) putting all their effort into making this form of storytelling widely accessible. From game engines like Unity to studios like ILMxLab, we are starting to see content that spans every level. Nonetheless, for most people — at least the average consumer — VR is unfortunately still considered to be a novelty rather than a serious narrative vehicle; for precisely this reason, applications such as Within are particularly unique in that they bridge the gap between filmmaking and interactive media. Instead of being presented as content that is “just for fun”, Within makes a point of presenting high-quality Cine-VR that allows the audience to see VR as more of a medium for experiential storytelling. Because Within goes the extra mile in terms of packaging their content, people are starting to take serious notice of how much more rewarding immersive films can be.

Take Asteroids! (by Baobab Studios), for example, hosted on Within. This story is both fresh and reminiscent of Pixar’s WALL-E (2008) yet the experience is filled with a number of unexpected surprises that make you feel like you’re one of the characters.

Asteroids! by Baobab Studios

In addition to stylized animation Within also hosts a bevy of live-action media that touches on profound issues such as war and wildlife extinction. For instance, in the short film, The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, we are transported to Garamba National Park, a war-torn part of Africa. Throughout the film we are exposed to the detrimental effects of poaching (due to the illegal ivory-trade in Africa) and are given the rare opportunity of stepping inside the shoes of multiple Park Rangers. Despite Garamba National Park being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these brave men must risk their lives everyday to protect the dwindling elephant population before it is too late. The full film can be seen here.

Of course, Within also hosts its fair share of “lighter” content as well. From Saturday Night Live, to USA Network’s Mr. Robot, to a documentary on Boston Dynamics, you can certainly find a wide range of films that fall into just about every genre. Using the latter example, The Possible: Hello, Robot (the documentary on Boston Dynamics), we are given an exclusive look into Boston Dynamics’ facility and get to meet face to face with most of their creations… all in glorious VR!

The Possible: Hello, Robot

Conclusion:

Even though this is not your average first person shooter or VR app, the fact Within has found a way to bundle all this VR content in one place is simply incredible! Regardless of the platform, Within doesn’t just deserve credit for curating all this amazing Cine-VR but it also deserves credit for opening people’s eyes (quite literally). At the very least we can say that Within is responsible for waking people up, introducing them to the idea that VR can also take shape as a serious storytelling medium. Sure, collectively we still have a lot of work and experimenting to do but what’s exciting about apps like Within is it proves this is just the beginning!

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