One objective of storytelling is to remove the reality around the ‘listener’ and put them in a different world. Have you ever notice, when listening to a great story or speech, that your mind blanks the environment around you and put you in your imaginative world relating to the story? If so, then the speakers objective was achieved. In the Modern Era, we have visual media to help assist our imagination. Now with the advent of virtual reality, we can delve into the world of stories in a new-found way.
Three talented minds by the name of Philipp Maas (Director, Producer), Dominik Stockhausen (Director, Producer) and Alexander Maas (Composer, Sound Design) have experimented with ways in which virtual reality can bring stories to another dimension of our imagination.
Philip is a CG animation student at the Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg, with 4 plus years in producing short films and commercials in CG & VFX industry. Dominik contributed to various film productions while attending University of Bayreuth and is a student at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg. Alexander found his niche at age six and has been composing music for international films, such as “Honor Flight,” which went into the Guinness world record for largest film screening in history.
With much talent and experience between the three, they decided to use their collective skills to produce a riveting film for the emerging VR marketplace. The goal was to create a film for new VR enthusiasts that will showcase the unique potential VR has for immersing people into imaginative stories. This potential includes people being able to interact with the environment they’ve been immersed in, creating that more of a connection with the story.
The result was SONAR: A Virtual Experience. As stated by them, “SONAR is a new kind of cinematic entertainment, striking a balance between traditional movie making and interactive media.” The VR film transports the experiencer in a mysterious and chilling place. It falls in the genre of Science Fiction, Horror and Experimental VR.
When you first enter the world, you are introduced to a drone that has been traveling the vastness of space. Soon afterwards, the drone spots a tumbling asteroid which piques it’s interest. But their something strange or off about this asteroid, as the drone is picking up a peculiar signal within the asteroid. Following the signal the drone enters the labyrinth cave inside the cold rock, where you are transported inside the drones cockpit as a tourist for this eerie cavern. As the drone continues to track the source of the signal, you soon discover the mystery hidden deep with the asteroid.
The VR film is a six and a half minute journey through the unknown. Philip and Dominik used smooth screen transitions and slower animated movements to give the film an optimal comfort experience. It was also complimented with a great musical score from Alexander, truly connecting you to the world and journey. SONAR was a winner at FIVARS, German Multimedia Award, as well as nominated at Best in Entertainment/Technology at Future Award and Best Original VR Content at Digital Hollywood.
Sundance recognized SONAR at it’s 10th Anniversary Celebration of New Frontier media, placing the project as an Narrative Virtual Reality story. HoneyVR complimented SONAR’s production team with being “impressive to the artist achievements of the work, is the fact that the small team created and rendered such a high-quality, 6-minute VR film in only 2 months and used only 4 workstations!”
Their VR film has been receiving endless praise for a truly unique approach in bring storytelling to a new dimension, through VR. The film is free-to-experience and can be downloaded through their website. You can experience it on the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and GearVR. If you own a VR headset, it is highly recommended that you check out this film, if you haven’t already.