VR Animated Stories: A New Level of Immersion

VR is getting a new niche market, and Studio Disrupt's Jak Wilmot is ahead of the game.

Virtual Reality is a big thing in the gaming industry, and there are a ton of great VR games on the horizon in 2017.  However, VR is also set to impact other markets as well from entertainment to education. 

Jak Wilmot, Founder of Atlanta-based Studio Disrupt, is in the VR business. In the VR animated film business. He stopped by the GameSkinny office to show us his first feature film and chat about his vision for the future of VR cinema. 

A self-taught graphic designer and animator, Jak decided to create his first feature, Please State Your Name, after reading a script posted on Reddit. He reached out to the writer, and the rest is history. Please State Your Name is a short animated film that follows the story of a decapitated robot head trying to escape a dangerous garbage facility. It's an immersive, fully 360 experience -- one that Jak  designed all on his own. 

 "VR animated film is a new idea filled with unique opportunities," said Jak. "It's a brand new medium for storytelling, and I've found it's my passion."

With that in mind, Jak is comfortable forging his own path and encouraging others to do the same. In an open letter on his development blog, he encourages animators to get plugged into the VR scene and run with it: 

So please. For the love of all that is good. Get on the train now, experiment with VR Filmmaking, see if you like it.

We need more animated VR filmmakers while the industry is small, to shape the stories that will be told tomorrow.

Including Jak, Studio Disrupt has four team members, and they are looking to hire more. His team's next project, La Camilla is one he is writing himself -- a script that draws inspiration from Paulo Coelho's bestseller The Alchemist.

Jak Wilmot (left) gets Brian Schaaf, GameSkinny's Developer, set up to experience Please State Your Name. Stephen Johnston, Jr., GameSkinny's Founder, also demoed the game. 

Jak's vision for the future? VR Cinemas. It's a concept where people gather together in a room to see a movie, but have individual VR headsets. There are already a few in China and Europe (Please State Your Name is being shown in a few of them overseas) and earlier this year, IMAX announced a plan to open six virtual reality theaters. Jak's dream is one that may come to pass in a few, short years. 

People have said that 360 VR film feels like walking through the pages of a story. A viewer can pay attention to the larger picture or the smaller details. People can align their perspective with what the creator wants them to see, or they can blissfully ignore them and focus on something that catches their fancy. Many VR creators are concerned with finding techniques to guide viewer attention through narratives -- especially when viewers have the ability to look anywhere. At first, this obstacle worried Jak until he saw the possibilities such an environment provided: 

As I continued with production of Please State Your Name I found the idea of having your viewer look anywhere was freeing. For the first time you can have a little cockroach crawl behind a piece of garbage while your main characters talk, maybe someone will notice? Maybe they won’t.

VR fundamentally opens up the door to experience a film differently with each viewing.

For those who enjoy visual novels, interactive fiction or just a darn good story, VR film is the logical next step to capture the imagination of audiences everywhere. If you're looking for a new kind of immersive storytelling, then you should join Jak and hop on the VR film train, too. 

Please State Your Name is available on Steam and Viveport. You can learn more about Jak and Studio Disrupt on the company website. 

Published Dec. 19th 2016

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