VR, Storytelling and Audience Autonomy: NovaKitten Interview Part 1

Meet Elaina Woods of NovaKitten Productions, an Austin based Virtual Reality and Film production company. Born out of a group of UT Austin Students, NovaKitten works on commercial and gaming VR projects, and focuses on developing a fun learning-centric storytelling community. This small company focuses on collaborative storytelling, and is pioneering immersive mediums for narrative.

Clever Tech Digest sat down with Elaina to explain how she got exposed to VR and more about this developing industry.

Ant Game: Alpha version of a VR resource management game; a genre not really explored in Virtual Reality yet

Ant Game: Alpha version of a VR resource management game; a genre not really explored in Virtual Reality yet

How were you introduced to VR and what drew you to develop content for it?

I was just at the right place at the right time. I knew about VR and AR theoretically because of my interest in video game development, but that was it. A very respected Radio Television Film professor came into my class one day and talked about their brand new Immersive Media class.

The first few weeks of working in a gaming engine and 3D modeling program were extremely confusing. But I love new technology and I saw an amazing chance to tell stories in a different medium. I have always loved experimental work, before the rules are established and anything goes. This is my opportunity to help define a new industry.

Ant Game: Screenshot from the alpha game, with the move function in the Unreal Engine.

Ant Game: Screenshot from the alpha game, with the move function in the Unreal Engine.

For the readers who have not interacted with virtual reality or 360 capture, can you explain what the difference between a VR and 3D capture experience is?

There is still a lot of debate over the terminology, but the encompassing term for VR, AR, MR, and 360 video are all under the umbrella of Immersive Media.

It’s like the difference between video games and films. The two are often grouped together because of their same platform, and the lines between them are sometimes blurred. However, a 360 cinematographer doesn’t necessarily have the skill set to design a 3D environment.

VR is exactly as it says; it’s virtual. It is generally constructed in a gaming engine and populated with 3D modeled objects.

360 is a new form of video. Several cameras capture 360 degrees of footage and the images are stitched together to create a panorama-like video. This can be viewed in your browser or on your phone, or for more immersion; you can watch it in a headset.

Mirror Game: A screenshot from NovaKitten's Mirrors video

Mirror Game: A screenshot from NovaKitten's Mirrors video

How does you use VR to tell stories?

VR can push the boundaries of what we can do and see in our world. Horror genres do very well, for understandable reasons. VR offers quite a bit of spectacle and wish fulfillment.

Currently VR more often takes the form of experiences rather than traditional stories. We do not want to take away control from the user, because a lot of the fun is the user autonomy in the environment. There are few fully scripted, linear stories. This is really interesting, because there is more focus on telling story through the environments and showing rather than telling.

Uploaded by NovaKitten Productions on 2017-02-23. Mirrors Game VR Prototype