Creative Forces in VR at Venice Festival Learn From the Past

Director eliza McNitt’s first virtual reality (VR) experience back in 2013 was not particularly pleasant. The simulated roller coaster ride, viewed through a development kit version of Oculus Rift, made her feel sick and disconnected. But she saw the glimmer of possibility.

“I thought, give this a few years and people are really going to be embracing this as a new medium for storytelling,” recalls McNitt.

Five years later, many filmmakers have tried their hand at VR, from big name directors such as Doug Liman (“American Made”), who released the five-part VR series “Invisible” in 2016, to relative unknowns like McNitt, whose VR docuseries “Spheres” will be among the more than two dozen works presented as part of the Venice Film Festival’s virtual reality section. But they’re still working out the bugs, both technological and narrative.

When writer-director Eric Darnell first took the plunge into VR with his Emmy-winning short “Invasion!” (2016), he already had more than three decades of animation under his belt, including DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” and its sequels. But he found that many of his time-tested techniques did not work in the new medium.

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