I spent a couple of months this Summer working with JT Petty on a virtual reality serialized science fiction thriller called GONE that got released today on Samsung’s MilkVR interactive spherical video platform. You can’t really experience it unless you have a GearVR with a compatible Samsung phone, but there are enough resources available online to give you an idea of what this is about, starting with this article on Variety.

GONE is a joint effort from Wevr, Skybound and Samsung to dive deep into the mostly unexplored waters of cinematic storytelling in virtual reality. This means we had to take the format a bit more seriously than it had been done before, starting with the scope and length of the story, cinematic language and camera movements, all the way to building a system that allows the audience to actually explore the scene at will through interactive features, taking them as close as possible to the notion of presence, or being there, that is key to VR. While you watch GONE, you have the choice to explore the settings of a scene at will, and by doing so you might gain better insight into some aspect of the story, but you might also miss out on something equally important just behind your shoulder. So every time you play an episode you will experience a slightly different story based of how you chose to explore the scene.

In order to achieve this, we shot every scene from multiple vantage points, and developed a playback system with a universal timeline that allows you to “jump” between multiple concurrent video tracks. The sense of being there while the scene unfolds around you is outstanding. When I think about all the limitations imposed to us by our 360° video capture, postproduction and playback tools, I can only begin to imagine how powerful this medium will become once better solutions have been developed to support our creative practice. GONE is the first time I watch a VR piece that feels as engaging in terms of story as any of my favorite TV shows, and this the result of JT’s excellent screenwriting in combination with the craft and effort we put into understanding what it means to tell a story in VR, and how to achieve this using the tools we had at the time.

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