VR Films for the Whole Family: ‘Wolves in the Walls’ and ‘SPHERES’ Join ‘Gloomy Eyes’ and ‘The Line’ on Oculus Quest

Oculus Blog
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November 20, 2020
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While many of us won’t be joining big gatherings for Thanksgiving this year, we’re still looking for fantastical stories to share with the whole family, near and far. After introducing your loved ones to Beat Saber or SUPERHOT VR, you may want to mix things up by showing them an immersive film that invites them to step inside the story and meet the characters. So we’ve put together a new collection of VR films on the Oculus Quest Platform to help you do just that.

Glimpse into the eyes of a zombie boy and a mortal girl that dare to play with love in Gloomy Eyes on the Quest and Rift Platforms. Find your inner child as you unlock a magical maquette in The Line on the Quest and Rift Platforms. Help Lucy discover what's hiding inside the walls of her house in Wolves in the Walls, now on both the Quest and Rift Platforms. And uncover the hidden songs of the universe in SPHERES, a spectacle that fuses art with science on the Quest and Rift Platforms.

This collection of VR films offers enchantment and wonder, and it’s perfect to share with friends and family. The Line and Wolves in the Walls are both Emmy Award winners, while The Line, Gloomy Eyes, and SPHERES all offer hand tracking support.

We spoke with the Directors behind Gloomy Eyes and The Line back in May. Today, we sit down with the creators of Wolves in the Walls and SPHERES, both recently released on the Quest Platform.

Wolves in the Walls

Based on the award-winning children’s book written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, Wolves in the Walls blends an AI-powered protagonist and choreography from immersive theater company Third Rail Projects to create a uniquely compelling and emotionally engaging experience unlike what’s come before it in VR. Eight-year-old Lucy isn’t just a passive character in the story. She remembers your interactions and uses them to inform your future play sessions—at least until it’s all over... It’s little wonder that it took home the 2019 Emmy® for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media.

We spoke with Pete Billington, Director of Wolves in the Walls, to learn more about the project.

How would you describe Wolves in the Walls to audiences who’ve never seen films in VR?

Pete Billington: Wolves in the Walls explores the intersection of film, games, and immersive theater. We wanted to cast the audience in a role. We wanted their choices to matter, and while it’s Lucy's story, we wanted you to be a part of that story. The overall goal of Wolves in the Walls is to transport you to the feeling of being eight years old in a scary old house, and spending time with a childhood friend exploring the dark corners.

Tell us more about the motion-capture process.

PB: Motion capture was an essential part of our workflow. Since there are many paths and choices within the experience, we needed a way to plan how each one blends back into the overall story. We call it a "braided narrative." By predicting and capturing all of these variations, we were able to then stitch them back together as a fluid performance. Lucy moves like she is dancing, constantly in motion, circling the audience. When we were capturing the performer, I was able to stand in the exact spot that the audience would be, performing their role. It really helped us make decisions in context.

Tell us more about creating a living character/virtual being like Lucy.

PB: We have spent a long time with Lucy now, but I remember the first time I forgot she wasn’t real. There is something about a character asking for help that immediately humanizes them. Lucy is the synthesis of artists and engineers and dancers and authors—she has sophisticated AI-driven behaviors, preferences, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. By investing so much into her backstory and motivation, we can bring her to life. But it is through the connections to the audience that she feels the most real. It’s about her recognizing your choices and thoughts and then demonstrating that understanding through her actions that makes her feel so real.

What are your thoughts on the future of VR as a tool for filmmakers and storytellers?

PB: VR remains the most emotionally connective medium that I have had the pleasure to work in. Once you have achieved emotional presence, you can use VR’s superpowers to explore very subtle yet powerful moments of connection. As artists start to understand the native abilities of VR, we will see new genres emerge. I think we have yet to see what VR storytelling is really capable of, but each step forward is exciting!

Anything else you’d like to add about launching Wolves on Quest?

PB: Just that I can't wait for everyone to meet Lucy and be a part of her world! if you are especially curious, you can follow her on Instagram @lucyandpigpuppet.

SPHERES

Narrated by top talent Millie Bobby Brown, Jessica Chastain, and Patti Smith, SPHERES brings together art and science in a feast of lights and sounds. With light interactivity, hand tracking enabled, and an intense original soundtrack, each chapter of SPHERES explores a particular phenomenon within our universe with an educational lens. Experience the sounds of the solar system, dive into the heart of a black hole, then travel to the edge of the cosmos for the Big Bang. With awards running from Sundance and Tribeca to SXSW and the Venice Film Festival, SPHERES is not to be missed.

We spoke with Eliza McNitt, Director of SPHERES, to learn more about the project.

How would you describe SPHERES to audiences who’ve never seen films in VR?

Eliza McNitt: SPHERES is an immersive exploration of the hidden songs of the cosmos. The three-part virtual reality series allows you to step inside of the skin of a star, fall into the heart of a black hole, and traverse the edges of the Universe. Each episode takes you on a sonic journey of the cosmos. Space is not silent. It’s actually full of sounds, and for the first time we listen to its music.

Tell us more about the educational side of SPHERES.

EM: I was initially captivated by the idea that space is full of sounds. One billion years ago, two black holes collided, creating a gravitational wave—a ripple in the fabric of spacetime—that we discovered for the first time in 2015. These signals are detected at LIGO as waveforms that create distinct sounds. I was shocked to be able to "listen" to a black hole. It had a unique song. This made me realize that the entire Universe is full of these sounds. My whole perspective around space suddenly changed, and it felt like VR was the only medium to capture this idea of the songs of space. I wanted you to be able to feel and interact with this strange concept to understand that these celestial bodies make music.

As I scoured NASA’s library, I found that black holes were just the beginning. You can listen to spellbinding sounds of Saturn’s radio emissions, or the screams of the earliest stars forming in the Universe. And the science behind this mystery is what informs the narration in SPHERES.

Tell us more about recording voice overs with such talented performers.

EM: I was so honored that Patti Smith, Jessica Chastain, and Millie Bobby Brown joined the cast of SPHERES. I’d grown up with the voices of Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking shaping my view of the cosmos, and I wanted to tell a story where three different generations of women represented the voices of the Universe. Each woman brought a very different perspective to the role, but ultimately inhabited a similar character. We approached the voice as the sound of Mother Earth, guiding you on this journey through the cosmos—but ultimately representing the comfort of home. To me, each woman’s take on the character captured something timeless about the grace and wonder of the Universe.

What are your thoughts on the future of VR as a tool for filmmakers and storytellers?

EM: Virtual reality brings you inside invisible worlds that expand the way we can perceive the Universe. I see VR as a full-body experience. It’s a powerful tool for telling emotional human stories. Most of all though, the incredible VR community continues to inspire and push me to imagine worlds beyond our own. I’m grateful to the entire community of storytellers in this space who continue to push boundaries and experiment. There’s truly nothing more exciting to me than the art that is being created in the world of VR and new media.

Anything else you’d like to add about launching SPHERES on Quest?

EM: It’s been my dream with this project to bring audiences into a world of science storytelling. I’m infinitely grateful to the incredible team of artists that I had the opportunity to collaborate with on this project. SPHERES was built by an army of collaborators, and I’m just amazed that two years after this journey we are able to continue to expand the reach of the experience. I’m thrilled SPHERES is now on Quest to continue to share this piece of our heart with the world.


Experience these stories first hand with the Fall into These VR Films Collection on the Quest Platform today.