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Sleepy Hollow & Narrative In VR

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Sleepy Hollow & Narrative In VR with Stefan Grambart

OVERVIEW
Narrative experiences in VR have come a long way this past year, and Secret Location was at the forefront with our Emmy-winning Sleepy Hollow VR experience. This new medium poses many challenges to historically reliable cinematic and scripting techniques, forcing VR storytellers to innovate and develop new strategies to engage audiences.

OBJECTIVE
As the creative lead on Sleepy, I want to share my experiences working on our first VR project and outline our discoveries and challenges around what it takes to tell a meaningful story in virtual reality.

TARGET AUDIENCE
Content creators in the Film & TV industries, game developers, and VR enthusiasts

ASSUMED AUDIENCE KNOWLEDGE
Awareness of virtual and augmented reality as new media, and the difference between the two.

FIVE THINGS AUDIENCE MEMBERS WILL LEARN
How Secret Location brought Sleepy Hollow to life in VR
A method to script 360º narrative experiences
Live vs computer modelled actors
The importance of audio as an immersion technique
Leveraging contextual interactivity

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Sleepy Hollow & Narrative In VR

  1. 1. VR Installation for Comic-Con CASE STUDY
  2. 2. Los Angeles+Toronto In late 2013, we had opened an office in L.A.
  3. 3. We pursued an opportunity to pitch to FOX,
  4. 4. who were looking to promote season 2 of their hit show.
  5. 5. We pitched them VR, which was still a nascent technology.
  6. 6. How nascent? • Many Kickstarter backers still waiting for DK1s. • Eight months away from the release of the DK2. • A year out from the launch of the first GearVR. • Facebook & Google not even mentioned yet. • And…
  7. 7. Mentioning VR just confused most people. “The Happening” (2008)
  8. 8. “Oculus Rift? The Transformer?” “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” (2011)
  9. 9. Content Studio for Emerging Platforms
  10. 10. Image credit goes here We had our emerging platform, but…
  11. 11. What’s the secret to telling a good story in VR? We had to figure that out for ourselves.
  12. 12. Our Approach • Implement sound & action cues to direct the user’s attention towards the primary story area. • Place points of interest outside the focal area that add context to the active narrative. • Develop dynamically generated content that can be delivered to the user in a predictable way.
  13. 13. ACCLIMATION & LEADING ACTION Orientation & the subtle prompts that guide the audience.
  14. 14. We had to account for lineups, acclimation, and narrative. Pacing the Story The audience orients themselves within the scene, get familiar with VR and the space they are in. Ichabod Crane appears and addresses the audience with a warning. Ichabod leaves, and the sound of the approaching Horseman fill the scene. The Horseman appears to cut off the audience’s head. The Horseman lifts the audience’s head like a trophy, giving them a good view of the Horseman CG model, ending on a title card. Leading Action Crow caws loudly and flies towards Ichabod’s entrance.
  15. 15. Acclimation is essential to let new audiences get grounded.
  16. 16. Kristine Dinglasan How do we bring the audience back to the story?
  17. 17. Cinematography tends to break in a frameless format.
  18. 18. A lot of our visual 
 language depends on a defined screen edge
  19. 19. Our crow drew the audience’s attention 
 to the primary story area.
  20. 20. 3D Spatial Audio Audio direction doesn’t rely on line-of-sight. Sound effects positioned in the 3D space are an effective means of grabbing the audience’s attention.
  21. 21. Leading action can’t be employed with a heavy hand. “Lost” (2015)
  22. 22. SECONDARY 
 POINTS OF INTEREST Everything helps to tell the story.
  23. 23. 360o of freedom. The audience can ignore your story.
  24. 24. 360 Storyboard o We developed a way to plan a frameless narrative,
  25. 25. placing points-of-interest outside the main story area. 360 Storyboard o
  26. 26. Make the environment relevant and rewarding.
  27. 27. Ichabod is never out of earshot, the story isn’t missed.
  28. 28. DYNAMICALLY GENERATED CONTENT Leveraging real-time VR.
  29. 29. SORRY, SPOILERS!
  30. 30. We wanted to ensure that the horseman’s approach wasn’t missed.
  31. 31. SORRY AGAIN, 
 SPOILERS!
  32. 32. Image credit goes here
  33. 33. Actor Tom Mison was shot stereoscopically
  34. 34. Stereoscopic 
 Camera Rig At the time, 3D cameras were designed for widescreen formats, not suitable for our needs in virtual reality; we had to invent our own.
  35. 35. Image credit goes hereImage credit goes here Our environment and horseman were real-time rendered.
  36. 36. The Horseman was generated in the scene 
 based on the audience’s sightline.
  37. 37. After SDCC, we continued to develop 
 how we tell stories in VR.
  38. 38. IMMERSION!
  39. 39. Presence Interaction Narrative VR Virtual reality delivers on three vectors.
  40. 40. PRESENCETransporting the audience to a credible environment.
  41. 41. 360o of freedom. The audience can ignore your story.
  42. 42. This is a frameless, 360o experience.
  43. 43. A 360o experience to deliver flat content?!! Netflix VR Theatre
  44. 44. Image credit goes here Look familiar?
  45. 45. “Twin Peaks” (1990)
  46. 46. Image credit goes here Surround sound is a 360o experience.
  47. 47. Presence can help build story by providing CONTEXTfor the primary narrative.
  48. 48. INTERACTIONAllowing the audience to impact their experience.
  49. 49. Sometimes “being there” isn’t enough. Not having your presence acknowledged 
 can be unnerving.
  50. 50. “Ghost” (1990) Oculus Story Studio calls this the “Swayze Effect.”
  51. 51. We’re not acknowledged by our favourite shows, but still get immersed in the stories.
  52. 52. “House of Cards” (2014) Well, sometimes we are.
  53. 53. Sleep No More has the audience surround and follow the story as ghost-like witnesses - there, but not acknowledged. “Sleep No More” (2011, NYC)
  54. 54. Interaction can add to the story by 
 giving the audience AGENCYin the environment.
  55. 55. Some levels of agency • Directional tracking • Positional tracking • Improvised theatre • Games • Collaborative storytelling
  56. 56. Canadian Improv Games (2013)
  57. 57. The interaction in games make them a perfect fit for virtual reality. World War ToonsLucky’s Tale Land’s EndEVE Valkyrie
  58. 58. • Collaborative storytelling between author and user. • Infinite possibilities collapse into a single, linear narrative. • Author/user roles can be asymmetrical. EMERGENT NARRATIVE
  59. 59. Rivalry Of Kin the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; 
 the Object of Rivalry The Object of Rivalry chooses the Preferred Kinsman over the Rejected Kinsman.
  60. 60. NARRATIVEGiving the audience a reason to care.
  61. 61. What’s the secret to telling a good story in VR?
  62. 62. Tell a good story.
  63. 63. Books Film TV Radio
  64. 64. RESONANCE The outcome matters to the audience
  65. 65. “Psycho” (1960) Characters can emote; we can intuit how they feel.
  66. 66. “Psycho” (1960) In 1st person PoV, we have less emotional cues.
  67. 67. REASONABLE 
 FACSIMILES Capturing performances
  68. 68. Kevin Spacey “House of Cards” (2014)
  69. 69. Not Kevin Spacey “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” (2014)
  70. 70. A simulated approximation of reality. House of Duty: Advanced Cards
  71. 71. Spacey-ish?
  72. 72. Stylized characters like those found in Journey can still 
 elicit powerful emotional reactions from an audience. “Journey” (2012)
  73. 73. Fantastic story & art can be created with the right style. “Colosse” (2015)
  74. 74. Nightmare fuel Avoid The 
 Uncanny 
 Valley
  75. 75. Skirt the edge of the valley by using an animated style, “Inside Out” (2015)
  76. 76. Be careful not to fall in; cute & creepy aren’t too far apart. “Tin Toy” (1988)
  77. 77. Performance Capture During Sleepy we worked with stereoscopic capture on green screen, and we learned a few things: •Actors need to be close to the camera to capture emotion. •Shoot at the distance you’ll display. •Our project manager isn’t a 
 great actor (sorry Luke).
  78. 78. Image credit goes here Constantly pushing the limits of our performance capture.
  79. 79. There’s some naysayers who think VR is for games.
  80. 80. “There seems to be a lot of excitement around something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly.” - James Cameron Filmmaker “Avatar” (2009)
  81. 81. “It’s good, but it’s not storytelling.” - Ed Catmull President, Pixar “Up” (2009)
  82. 82. The medium is too nascent for sweeping statements. (don’t listen to them)
  83. 83. That’s like comparing the Lumière brothers’ films… “Workers Leaving The Factory” (1895)
  84. 84. To Star Wars. “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
  85. 85. Early film and VR have a lot in common.
  86. 86. Documentary or journalistic shorts. “Train Pulling Into a Station” (1895)
  87. 87. Documentary or journalistic shorts. “Walking New York” (2015)
  88. 88. The First Cut It wasn’t until we developed cinematography that we had a language capable of telling a story on film. “A Trip to the Moon” (1902)
  89. 89. VR breaks that language, and we’ll need to discover it all over again.
  90. 90. “VR is a new medium, 
 we need new ideas.” - Nick Pittom Director, Fire Panda “Colosse” (2015)
  91. 91. “Challenge accepted.” - Me and my big mouth
  92. 92. Stefan Grambart Creative Director email
 stefan@thesecretlocation.com twitter
 @stefangrambart Any Questions? THANKS!

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