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Virtual Reality And Scripted Drama

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

At the start of 2016 the tech hype machine was going into overdrive over the potential for Virtual Reality to finally break through to the mainstream. January’s CES in Las Vegas featured the launch of Fox Studio’s The Martian Experience, their second VR project in conjunction with a major big screen production. At the same time Facebook’s Oculus Rift was busy generating media interest around the Q1 launch of its first consumer VR headset. However what was lacking from the conversation was how to make VR an experience for the mainstream TV and film consumer. The $599 price point for the Rift headset and bonus feature positioning of the Martian Experience, limit the technology and the VR experience to tech and media enthusiasts. What VR is waiting for is its mainstream cross-over moment, and the potential of VR to revolutionize scripted drama could just be the medium in which to achieve this.

How VR Can Enhance Story-telling

One example of how VR can enhance and potentially move into becoming a central part of the mainstream consumer video content experience is provided by the London-based VR production company Exzeb. It partnered with Canal+, the French film and television studio and distributor, with the aim of enabling fans of the TV series to become a part of the show.
 This led to the creation of a 6 minute VR spin-off for of the award-winning Canal+ original TV series “Le Bureau des Légendes”.

The “Le Bureau des Légendes” VR spin-off allows regular viewers to experience the show from the perspective of the protagonist who is a DGSE secret agent. Upon donning the headset the viewers find themselves inside the TV scenes. The actors around them portray the characters in the TV series and address the viewer as the protagonist of the plot. A secret assignment is given to the viewer and they travel across Paris and onto a hotel location to place a surveillance device on a suspect’s laptop. Although the experience is heavily directed throughout, it differs from many VR spin-offs in that it is structured around a clear storyline. This reduces the dependence of the user experience upon the novelty of being immersed in the VR world, and instead allows the viewer to feel like they are part of the story.

Why Scripted Drama Matters In VR

It is easy for VR enthusiasts both on the consumer and on the production side to become mesmerized by the immersive experience of VR. While this is undoubtedly true for the majority of potential users it neglects the fact that most people want to be entertained, and indeed struggle to effectively do it themselves. A scripted and directed VR experience allows for the immersive story-telling potential of VR to be combined with the power of letting professional writers and producers guide the viewer through a compelling story line.

The next logical step on the VR’s journey to becoming a truly differentiated story telling medium is for VR producers to create multiple character view point story arcs, where each section of the story is told from a different vantage point. Just imagine being able to view the new Game Of Thrones Series through the eyes of each of the key protagonists (just as it was written in the original novels.) Now that would take the show’s strong character empathy to a whole new level for the audience. And, it would fuel mainstream consumer demand to be part of the VR experience, beyond gaming and specialized applications in architecture, healthcare, and scientific education. The challenge then is for TV producers and gaming studios to combine best practice and work with VR production companies to create the next generation of scripted drama content for a truly immersive and transformative entertainment experience.

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