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Disney set to debut first VR short next month

Tim Maytom

Walt Disney Animation Studio is set to debut its first ever virtual reality short film, Cycles, at SIGGRAPH, a computer graphic conference run by the Association for Computing Machinery. The film will join other VR, AR and MR entertainment experiences in the conference's Immersive Pavillion.

The experimental film, directed by Jeff Gipson, centres on the true meaning of creating a home and the life it holds insides its walls, and is inspired by Gipson's grandparents.

"Every house has a story unique to the people, the characters who live there," said Gipson. "We wanted to create a story in this single place and be able to have the viewer witness life happening around them. It is an emotionally driven film, expressing the real ups and downs, the happy and sad moments in life."

Cycles took four months to create, with around 50 collaborators working as part of a professional development program at the studio. Animators had to learn how to translate a story to the VR 'screen', with traditional storyboarding replaced with a mix of Quill VR painting techniques and motion capture. The creators also explored innovative ways of using light and colour saturation in scenes to help guide the user's eyes during the experience.

"What's cool for VR is that we are really on the edge of trying to figure out what it is and how to tell stories in this new medium," said Gipson. "In VR, you can look anywhere and really be transported to a different world, experience it from different angles, and see every detail. We want people watching to feel alive and feel emtoion, and give them a true cinematic experience.

"VR is an amazing technology and a lot of times the technology is what is really celebrated. We hope more and more people behin to see the emotional weight of VR films, and with Cycles in particular, we hope they will feel the emotions we aimed to convey with our story."