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Project Blogs

Stage II: VR Development

Mission To India VR is an interactive experience based on the true story “Mission To India” by George Lombardi, M.D. An immersive virtual reality adaptation of Dr. Lombardi’s story written & directed by Angeline Gragasin & David Negrin, the project is in partnership with The Moth and co-produced by Kokowa Inc


STAGE II: VR Development


    What relationships would we need? What teammates?

    STORY... We met with The Moth, we met with Dr. George Lombardi and received permission from both to move forward with development using their audio story. David & Angeline would serve as co-writers on the VR screenplay. 

    SOFTWARE DEV... Previously, we’d struck partnerships with Kokowa Inc. as our VR platform and software development partner, and Body Labs as a motion capture partner. David would serve as Project Lead coordinating software development at Kokowa.

    VISUAL ARTIST... Engaging an art director would be key in choosing the project's aesthetic. We've chosen an impressionistic, digitally animated environment, and the art director would help the filmmakers realize the creative goals for the VR Film using illustration and digital concept art. Later the art director would collaborate with digital animators, texture artists, 3D character modelers and riggers to bring to life the final prototypes with the chosen aesthetic.

    SOUND ARTIST... Engaging a sound designer would be key to bring full binaural sound to our environment and integrate it with the story experience in terms of story cues and diegetic sound. The sound design of a VR Film is at times even more important than the visual design in moving the story forward and evoking emotion.

    Concept art for “Dear Angelica.” by OCULUS

    Concept art for “Dear Angelica.” by OCULUS

    How is VR Film development different from feature film or video game development?

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    Developing a VR Film is a combination of the “pre-production” stage of film development and the “prototyping” and “playtesting” stages of video game development. As project lead, I put together our project plan to prototype, playtest, and design an a 3D environment and interactive VR experience based on the audio story. We’d call it “Mission to India VR”. At the same time I organized script development and storyboarding of the first draft of a VR Script.

    Script Development in Game Design?

    As many guests on Inside the Actor's Studio will tell you, 'it all starts with the text.' The writing of our interactive VR script based on an existing story began with a breakdown of the text of the original audio story, workshopping ideas for the final , and then writing the the 1st draft of the interactive VR script. The VR script would:

    1. identify representational images for each scene's environment and characters,
    2. describe the interactive opportunities in the story, and
    3. map the dialog and audio cues to trigger interactivity and transitions / warps.

    The VR Script functions as a skeleton and touchstone for the prototyping stage.

    StoryBoard Shot.jpg

    Prototyping in Film?

    To test the strengths and limitations of the VR Platform and Unity Game engine we chose 3 scenes for initial prototyping from the Mission to India VR interactive script. My co-director and I chose these scenes that we considered “dramatic imperatives.“ Scenes that our project couldn’t live without. Again, story first, technology second. There is a similar process in film production where the director examines their elaborate shooting plan and circles the "priority shots." That is, the shots, without which, you have no story. In addition we decided to make multiple versions of these prototype scenes representing broad categories of aesthetic choices our art director might consider: 3D representation, 2D representation, or Luminous representation. 

    What is a VR Film Spine?

    We realized early on that the project would have 12-13 scenes and that some would require more development time than others. But the relationship between all the scenes was something we needed to get a feel for from the start to build a 3D Environment. So we came up with the idea of doing a 'VR Film Spine', that is, a basic montage-driven prototype VR Experience with stand-in images for characters/objects and all major cues for interactive moments and transitions/warps laid out roughly.

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    …  Project in progress, stay tuned for UPDATES SOON...

    LINK TO STAGE III: Mission To India VR Experience