Get lost in Facebook's VR short film

Get lost in Facebook's VR short film
A man trying out the Oculus VR Crescent Bay prototype - meant to be a consumer version of the Rift headset - at the CES consumer technology trade show.

UTAH, US - Facebook's Oculus VR is getting into movies, with an in-house studio dedicated to making virtual-reality (VR) films, and premiered its first short piece at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday.

Tapping talent from both Pixar - the animation studio behind CGI films Toy Story and Monsters Inc - and the video-gaming world, Oculus' Story Studio will develop film content for VR and advise other film-makers seeking to try the technology.

Facebook bought Oculus last year for US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion). So far, the business has largely focused on video games for its pioneering wrap-around Rift headset.

But VR has recently been enticing Hollywood's filmmakers to expand into the 360-degree panoramic view offered by headsets.

Oculus debuted Lost on Monday, the first of five short animated films that it is making in the year ahead.

Directed by former Pixar artist Saschka Unseld, now the creative director of Story Studio, Lost places the viewer in the midst of a forest where a mechanical creature bounds into the scene.

This year at Sundance, the largest United States independent film gathering, part of the event has been dedicated to VR short movies by film-makers including Chris Milk and Felix & Paul.

But VR films are still a long way from becoming mainstream as the headsets to display them have yet to reach the mass market.

While Samsung Electronics offers its Galaxy Gear VR headset with its Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, and Google has its Cardboard VR device to use with smartphones, the consumer version of Oculus' Rift headset is still in development.

There are also technological and creative constraints to developing film in VR, said Mr Unseld. Challenges include computers running too slowly to handle the intensive rendering of graphics in real time, as well as how to find a format for storytelling in a 360-degree environment where the viewer can look anywhere.

"Film has very linear storytelling, it's one-dimensional," he addded. "In VR, you need to find a three-dimensional way of telling the story where the space around you matters."

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