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Most cinematic VR studios today have grappled with a common problem.

You can script, animate, or shoot footage containing the elements of your narrative, but If you give up control of the camera angle (gaze), how do you tell a story? 

We believe this battle for control of the camera is partly the result of directors trying to keep one foot in older mediums, like film, while placing one foot in the new medium of virtual reality.

Walkie Entertainment is taking a different approach, which might be considered an "all in" approach. We decided to script a large amount of cinematic content and then give up control of the camera's angle AND position. The result is a navigable motion picture, a hybrid medium sharing traits of games (navigable) and film (deterministic content). This is experienced by the viewer as a movie you can "walk around in”.

So far, the navigable motion picture format, which is primarily defined by a repositioning of, and respect for, the line between author and audience, has all the hallmarks of a being viable recording medium. That is, a foundational technology that can be formed into any number of works, without needing to change its underlying properties. No tricks or gimmicks are required to attract or maintain the viewer's gaze. No special coding is required for any one particular title.

With this in mind, Walkie Entertainment is developing an authoring tool, file format, and playback system for navigable motion pictures, because at the moment, no such technology stack exists.

The two technology stacks that DO exist can generally be divided into two categories, real-time and offline.  Traditionally, real-time systems have been leveraged to render dynamic, event-driven content, such as games, while offline systems have been leveraged to render deterministic, fixed-work content, such as films. By refactoring elements of game engines and computer animation software it is possible to build this third stack.

 

To get an idea of what a screenplay for a navigable motion picture might look like see below:

The above illustration contrasts the task of screenwriting for 2D or linear presentations with screenwriting for 3D navigable works. Giving up control of the camera's position requires the author to script action and dialogue occurring in parallel in a 3D space over a given span of time.

 

At the end of the day, we believe the massive content challenge posed by screenwriting for a navigable space is surmountable. In part because of advances in 3D content pipelines, but also because of advancements in collaborative authorship systems (see GitHub). 

Finally, to return to the question of narrative guidance posed earlier, particularly for those that are (rightly) concerned about a navigable motion picture's lack of narrative guidance, it turns out that narrative guidance, like other constructs from old media, need not be excluded, but can instead be encompassed by the new medium of VR.

For example, the illustration below depicts a navigable motion picture that shipped along with 8 "movie" sequences chosen by a director. After all, a movie is simply a sequence of instructions on where to place a camera, how to move it, and for how long. If you include this information in a navigable motion picture, the viewer can choose to "play movie" at any time, at which point they would voluntarily relinquish control of the camera, in favor of being put back "on rails" to follow the narrative guidance of a story teller.

 

Here are some more related articles to read:

Virtual Reality Has a Storytelling Problem and Theater Will Save It

For fun with words, and to understand part of the inspiration for all this see below:

 William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.

Faulkner imagined and created a fictional town in which he set all but three of his novels. He even went so far as to create a map of the town.

The name of our first title "Yacona Patova" was inspired by the Faulkner name "Yoknapatawpha", which, according to Wikipedia,  was derived from two Chickasaw words...yocona and petopha, meaning "split land." In a navigable motion picture, the "split land" is defined by the new line between director and audience. The director has full control of the content. The audience has full control of the camera.

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“Truly a unique idea in a sea of many familiar ones.” The VR Shop on Archipelago

 

 

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