Facebook-owned Oculus VR has introduced its first short 360-degree virtual reality movie

Facebook-owned Oculus enters movie business

Oculus VR, the Facebook owned company developing the highly anticipated Rift headset, has launched its own movie studio developing 360-degree virtual reality experience. 

Debuting its first short movie, 'Lost', at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the USA, on Monday, the company plans to focus on developing its own film content as well as providing guidance to other filmmakers intrigued by the technology.

To create its first film, the company recruited some of the computer graphics wizards and creative talent from hit-making animation studio Pixar, including artist Sascha Unseld, who directed the movie.

Oculus chief executive Brendan Iribe described the movie, which places the viewer in the midst of a forest where a giant robot bounds into the scene, as ‘a real-time version of a Pixar experience that you're inside of’.

"This is really tuning in to what a lot of people who are extending 360-degree film into VR cannot do yet," Iribe said. "It's getting into the heart and soul and magic of VR."

Oculus also hopes to explore VR film experience in real time, which would allow viewers to interact inside the headset with objects and characters.

The 360-degree panoramic view offered by headsets such as Oculus Rift is attracting Hollywood filmmakers seeking to expand the already well developed 3D technology into a fully immersive 360-degree experience.

However, virtual-reality films are still a long way from becoming mainstream, the experts say, as the headsets to display them have yet to reach the mass market.

While Samsung Electronics offers its Galaxy Gear VR headset with its Galaxy Note 4 smartphone and Google has its Cardboard VR device to use with smartphones, the consumer version of Oculus' Rift headset is still in development, expected to enter the market during 2015.

As Unseld told Reuters, filmmakers exploring the possibilities of 360-degree virtual reality are currently struggling with limited computing power of today’s computers, which makes rendering of 360-degree graphics extremely time consuming.

Moreover, conventional story-telling techniques used in cinematography would be challenged once the viewer can choose where to look while watching the movie.

"Film has very linear storytelling, it's one-dimensional," Unseld said. "In VR, you need to find a three-dimensional way of telling the story where the space around you matters."

Facebook bought Oculus last year for $2bn. So far the business has largely focused on video games for its pioneering wrap-around Rift headset.

This year at Sundance, the largest US independent film gathering, part of the event has been dedicated to virtual-reality short movies by filmmakers including Chris Milk and Felix & Paul, to draw the independent film community.

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