This column is authored by Muhammad Usman Siddiqui, CEO, MUSTips
Of all the new technologies making waves in the world today, virtual reality (VR) seems to be the one most destined to make a major splash in the world. Virtual reality offers an injection of fun into the media that we have become accustomed to.
As a testament to its customizability, VR is finding new applicability into many different fields such as gaming, education and training just to name a few. While applicability seems to booming, it is true that virtual reality is as yet to reach its true potential and for this reason, would-be content creators are hastily attempting to discover new ways in which virtual reality technology can be harnessed.
However it is not surprising that virtual reality seems to entrench itself firmly into the camp of entertainment. And it comes as even less of a surprise that animation seems to have taken a firm liking to the medium since, after all, animation does seem to lend itself most easily to animation. Yet the limits of the marriage between Virtual Reality to animation is still in question. There is a sense that virtual reality can alter the trajectory of animation for a long time to come. In some respects that may be true. As we can see, virtual reality has the tools to take animation to new heights.
It’s All on Display
Animated video, while displayed for decades on two-dimensional screens, increasing creation of three-dimensional animations means that a 2D screen is ill-equipped to showcase it adequately. 3D animation has also increased in popularity, however, the qualities that make 3D video wonderful are somewhat muted by a 2D display. It is not surprising that virtual reality has come to the forefront as a way to bridge that gap between intention and expectation. Virtual reality offers animators the ability to create rich environments that users can fully appreciate. VR will allow animation to be displayed the way it was intended. They will be able to view the small details that animators labor over.
Makes Animation Interactive
Prior to virtual reality the relationship between the viewer and the media he or she consumed was a very strict one. The media was there simply to be viewed and he or she had no input into the events unfolding on the screen. Virtual Reality promises more ways for the viewer to appreciate and interact with the media being viewed. Users can allow themselves to be lost in these virtual worlds. More importantly, viewers need not stand and watch the story go by. They themselves can become characters in the story adding to the feeling of existing within this new reality.
Increased Emotional Appeal
Whether it’s through books, movies, video games or even Saturday morning cartoons, storytelling impacts us greatly as it manipulates our emotions. As Lucila Riggio, Creative Producer at Spiel Creative notes, “An attractive story will motivate an audience to listen and really engage with a message…”.When one person tells a story to another, the story is comprised of various events that cause us to feel happy, sad, and afraid or makes us jump with fright. Good storytellers are able to reveal something about ourselves through our reactions to various events in the story. Mediums such as movies and video games have a step up over books and other mediums limited to audio. However virtual reality has an even bigger benefit with the ability for users to submerge themselves within the storytelling. Users have compared the experience of VR use to that of being conscious in a vivid dream. Of course, this is music to the ears of content creators who aim to create worlds so vivid that they are able to merge that gap between the real world and the virtual one. Users are no longer just the viewers but characters who can have an input in the direction of the story. And because stories make us empathetic to the characters and the events, users will develop an increased sense of empathy that may not be possible with simple animation.
As a tool, virtual reality is very useful for bridging the gap between animation and virtual games through the use of storytelling. VR is particularly adapted to creating immersive stories in which users can attempt to make their own way. In VR, scripted stories are outfitted with a high degree of flexibility. This flexibility mirrors the choice that would-be users find plentiful in the real world. Thus, in the same way, creators can infuse their stories with similar levels of choice. The user himself determines which way the story will go. Likewise, the creator will attempt to supply as many choices to the user as possible. Because of the number of possible outcomes for the game, users might attempt to experience as many possibilities as they can.
Storytelling relies on the observation of a neutral observer allowing you to form an opinion on the characters and the events that unfold. However virtual reality goes a different route when it comes to telling a story. Instead of using the audience as a blank canvas, the viewer is treated as though he or she was a character in the story. In this new reality, characters as well as viewers have a stake in how the events in the story turn out. Contrary to the role as an unbiased observer, the participant is is forced to have his or own perspective. In addition to this, he or she can choose from a number of perspectives.
Each Experience is individualized
Apart from a few minor differences, when an audience views an animation, they each glean more or less the same experiences from it. Ah the same time, it’s clear that no two people experience a work of art in exactly the same way since each individual is a compendium of different life experiences, genders, ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. For this reason, different people will react differently to characterization, setting and the conflict presented in the work. However, in the world of virtual reality, reaction to these elements are magnified considering how up close and personal viewers are to the story. Yet, because of how personalized each individual’s experiences can be, it is likely that each participant’s experience bears no resemblance to the other. In virtual reality, there are multiple stories waiting to be experienced and users will be able to explore the entire world with its various avenues for discovery.
While storytelling is hardly a new phenomenon, it is always actively searching for new mediums on which to propagate. In many ways, these new mediums do not harm the art of storytelling but gives it new means of expression. There is good reason to believe that animation can benefit greatly from virtual reality. However it is still unknown just how much it would be affected. Yet, the promise of these immersive worlds is clear. This, coupled with the free will handed out to the participant will ensure that virtual reality will offer vast fields of exploration.