Storytelling in VR — Lessons from Disneyland

We all probably agree that VR is so new that it’s difficult to grasp how we can best leverage the immersive medium to take advantage of its powerful capabilities. Add to the fact that as I sit here typing this article at this very moment, there are a plethora of headsets to choose from and equal amount of platforms to watch VR content on — it’s a pretty painful exercise just accessing the stuff. With so many unknown variables and content creators still at the “experimental” stage, a common question has arisen: Is there a place for VR storytelling that would allow you to experience a different world without leaving your house — and if so, whats the best way to build it?

The answer seems obvious but the path to achieve such a world has not yet been paved, leaving innovators with a carte-blanche to build out the medium. Thus far, there have been some pretty novel attempts at defining VR storytelling’s best practices, and some of the answers have a surprising birthplace from other industries.

Virtual Reality Can Learn a Lot from Theme-Parks

I attended a new Meetup titled ‘AR/VR Munch & Learn’ — a gathering for VR enthusiasts in the San Francisco- Bay Area, organized by Google tech guru Mohammad Musa. Visual storyteller Josh Anon, the first enthusiastic speaker of the evening, compared VR storytelling experience to being in Disneyland.

“Theme park designers have figured how to direct people to certain parts of the park […]with rides you have freedom to look around while still being part of an overarching experience”

According to Josh, VR content creators don’t yet utilize all the space that’s possible for the viewer to explore. They are still in the habit of steering the viewer to the story they want to tell versus filling the environment with details, paths, doors, micro worlds for the viewer to explore themselves. The lack of filling the environment with interesting objects creates a lost opportunity in VR. Below is the excerpt from the presentation making this point.

Analytics to Guide Your VR Story

Along with a different way to tell the story, analytics on what works and what doesn’t in an experience, from a UX perspective, has become very important. Digital content marketing analytics in a 2D world is simple: clicks, views, length of viewing, downloads, etc. But leveraging analytics for VR becomes fundamentally different. In fact it seeks to answer a much more profound question about the medium itself: How do you measure VR content engagement where sound plays a huge role, where each user’s head movement in a headset indicates something subtle about a producer’s story arch, etc.? Retinad is working on technology that aims to analyze the engagement in virtual reality world.

Director of Developer Relations, Alexander Haque, the second speaker of the evening, dove into the importance of data and building compelling VR experiences.

Sound, story details and mini environments in VR world are what makes a story-telling experience great and helps the audience want to come back and continue exploring and discovering additional story paths.

Please let me know in the comments below what interests you when it comes to VR/AR/360 video. If you are interested to learn more about what’s happening in this space, you can attend an upcoming Meetup on VR/AR in Silicon Valley. I hope to see you there.
-Loreta Tarozaite is our guest-blogger and Sr. Video Producer at Sandisk. Loreta is very passionate about startups and founder stories, entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley, technology and beyond. You contact her to learn how she can help your video marketing needs.