Baobab, Oculus, Penrose, Et Al: The Disneys Of Early VR Animation?

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draw the viewer back to the characters, Darnell says. One studio used a small butterfly’s flight to re-direct viewers to the plot action.

But a basic technique comes back to the strength of the story. “The filmmaker can make the characters compelling enough that you want to know what’s going on,” Darnell says.

The filmmaking challenges are thorny enough when you consider a viewer sitting quietly alone in front of a PC. But what if consumers want to watch VR films together—a common way to enjoy traditional movies?

“People are working on that right now,” Darnell says. “There’s a reason why Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus. It wasn’t so people could sit by themselves.”

Group movie-watching would require multiple headsets, and possibly a way to hook them to the same device. But the technological challenges could be minor compared to the creative ones. Which viewer would control the film’s pace and “shot framing?”

The animated feature in VR may also have to evolve for viewers who aren’t sitting in front of a PC, but have full freedom of movement as they tap into the film from a mobile device. They could run after the characters, or gesture to them. “Of course you don’t want to do that in a room full of furniture,” Darnell says. “You could trip over your ottoman.”

At this point, Baobab is a small company with a growing staff of 15 full-time people and contractors. The studio is developing its proprietary technology and sticking to short features for now.

“That allows us to get material out quickly, to establish ourselves as leaders in the industry, and iterate,” Darnell says. The studio wants to be ready, no matter how the industry evolves.

Meanwhile, virtual reality filmmaking has been breaking into the film festival circuit.

Penrose’s five-minute VR film “The Rose And I” made its world premiere in the New Frontier section at the Sundance Film Festival 2016 in January, and Oculus Story Studio previewed its “Dear Angelica” there.

“I’m pretty convinced that VR in all its forms is going to be a really dominant player in the 21st century, like film was in the 20th century,” Darnell says.

 

Images provided by Baobab Studios

 

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