Relinquishing The Frame; Storytelling in Virtual Reality

Publication Date

April 2016


Scott Higgins


Film Studies


English (United States)


Virtual reality is a rapidly developing creative medium that allows users to experience full 360-degree, stereoscopic three-dimensional digital environments. While much of the attention on virtual reality’s recent entry into the mainstream public consciousness has centered on its video gaming applications, the film industry has nevertheless enthusiastically hailed the technology as a veritable “empathy machine” with formidable storytelling potential. Despite this hype, virtual reality has struggled to decisively prove itself as more than a fleeting spectacular gimmick. As content creators experiment with ways of utilizing its unhinged 360° frame towards expressive ends, the medium has yet to establish a formal aesthetic with a visual language governed by convention. Drawing from the examples presented by a diverse selection of short-form VR features, my thesis examines if, and how virtual reality filmmakers can navigate the storytelling challenges posed by its key structural differences from traditional film in order to create narratively-driven experiences that are coherent, innovative and above all, emotionally engaging.

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