Crafting a story for virtual reality

Virtual reality can provide an entertaining and impactful experience but only if storytelling is applied in a meaningful way for this media. With VR headsets you are transported to a different world and when creating a narrative intended for immersive spaces, the world and the story presented should invite the user to interact and become part of the experience itself.

How can we structure a story to be told as a virtual reality experience?

First of all, you have to be certain why this story should be told in an immersive medium and not in another format. What is the motivation that justifies exploring XR and its possibilities? Is it perhaps that we want to generate empathy? To transport the user to a different time and location so that they will experience the situation from a particular point of view? Or we want to play with the space and create an environment to reinforce an specific message?

For our new film Cosmonaute 360 – Mission: RESCUE we decided to create a story that would benefit from the possibility of XR (extended realities). By submerging our users into the depths of the sea they will be able to explore a problem of which we are all unconsciously taking part. Plastic consumptions is problem in which we contribute daily with our actions but we are not aware of it…and this is mainly for the simple fact that we are not seeing it. With VR we can make you dive and let you see it for yourself!

The point of view and creating a script for VR

An important decision to contemplate is that you will have to decide how the viewer will participate in your VR script. Creative directors can experiment in different ways to make the audience participate in the story, maybe as a witness or as an active character.

On our new adventure our main characters will embark on a aquatic journey to retrieve a treasure from the depths of the sea at Isla Bonita. Our cosmo-explorers will meet a creature that will led them to discover a terrible revelation …plastic pollution is killing life in the oceans.

For our film we developed our script considering the idea to jump from a 3rd person perspective to the main character point of view. In a very subtle way we transition from one point of view to another, for this we divided each of the sequences according to the reasons of what we wanted the users to see and what we intend to make the audience feel.

In a certain sense, some sequences are more like a theatrical play where each spectator can turn to see where they want, and the point of attention is guided by a sweet spot in the scenery and the environment. Other sequences will put you in a first person view to provoke a sensation of living the experience as one more participant taking a role in the adventure, feeling different emotional arcs from curiosity to claustrophobia, from desperation to positive motivations and finally unleashing reactions.

All this elements in the story led us to decide to produce our film with 3D animation techniques and to imagine how to solve these sequences through the lens of a camera in a virtual world.

How to create a storyboard for virtual reality?

Creating beats boards or “story beats” is a great way to approach the storyboard process and it is really helpful for the development of stories for immersive experiences. Beat boards are visual boards with notes that describe a general idea of what is happening during the sequence.

For this purpose, the creative director of the film Damné Jesús worked with the graphic artist Lolo Aburto to create a series of illustrations, the final result is similar to how we traditionaly approach the production of original art for illustrated books.

In a traditional film we create a storyboards that indicates the setting of the scene, but in a 360 format, the frame does not exist to delimitate the point of view, so the creation of visuals for a beat board can help us communicate with the team, in a way that the elements of the story such as the environment, characters and actions represented allow us to imagine how the developers will build the world and environment and how it will look and feel. We can support this imagery with notes and descriptions.

We hope this explanation can help other creators to develop more stories for immersive spaces. This is how the rest of our Beat Board looks like!

We invite to follow Lolo Aburto work at his instagram profile. He was responsible of creating beautifil artwork for the development of our new episode.


Published by Dessignare

New Media Production & Digital Animation focusing on cultural promotion and edutainment. Developing projects from Mexico City to the world. Founders of Dessignare Media, international network for the creative industries.

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