Apart from my visit to the offices of Moth + Flame for my interview with director Kevin Cornish, I stopped by the Virtual Arcade last Sunday to see the latest projects being developed for Virtual Reality platforms and I was ecstatic to see something so new being embraced by so many different methods of design. These three are the most distinguished and unique that I demoed.
The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes
This 360 live action short presented in Samsung’s Gear VR for smartphones is a documentary piece produced and directed by two time Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker). It puts together a brief narrative by giving viewers a glimpse into the lives of the men who work as rangers in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their daily task is to preserve the lives of few remaining elephants from poachers hunting the endangered species for ivory tusks. The short embraces the harsh reality of this line of work, and the preparedness required of these rangers mentally to make up for what they lack in equipment, protection and sustenance. The format, of course, enhances the viewer’s empathetic emotion for these rangers and their families as the cameras are placed on or held by the rangers themselves, and the documentary makes no effort to hide this face either, making the viewer feel more connected by realizing their disconnect from this endeavor to protect endangered animals like these.
Having met Eric Darnell, known for directing Dreamwork’s Madagascar films, and seeing him ecstatic about the creation of this Rainbow Crow series, you can’t help but feel delighted as well when you put on an Oculus headset and see what they’ve built thus far. The animation, which I’m told from former Pixar animator working on the project, Larry Cutler, will be a multi chapter animated narrative that engages the viewers through Virtual Reality and will be an imaginative retelling of the old folklore about the Rainbow Crow and how he became how we see crows today. This animation is set to star John Legend, Constance Wu and Diego Luna.
Broken Night depicts the perspective of a woman in questioning from the police after a tragic event with a thief, and is desperately trying to piece the memories of the evening together. The catch to this crime drama is, as some gamers will recognize from the Telltale Games series, you’ll find yourself to be the one attempting to put the story together as the 360 stage of the house begins to splinter into different paths of memory. As the viewer, you look to the direction that you think should be the right one, but some scenes even play out to incentivize you to choose on instinct. The 8 minute short, we are told, all converges on the same conclusion, but the branching paths throughout it’s 30 Terabytes of rendering in all narrative possibilities allows the the viewers have a more impactful journey of distorted memory.