Facebook Debuts Short Virtual Reality Film ‘Henry’ for the Oculus Rift

Henry,” a 10-minute animated Virtual Reality (VR) film for Facebook’s VR headset Oculus Rift, debuted Tuesday in Beverly Hills. Facebook hopes to persuade filmmakers to produce compelling content that attracts consumers to the Rift.

The short film features Henry, a sweet cartoon hedgehog. With their Oculus Rift strapped on, viewers can follow Henry with full 360-degree immersion. The film is produced by Facebook’s Oculus Story Studio, which is developing original VR content to showcase the capabilities of Facebook’s VR platform and inspire filmmakers to create VR cinema content for the Oculus Rift.

Henry is a glimpse of what the future holds,

Saschka Unseld, creative director at Oculus Story Studio, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Henry has these moments of joy and sadness, and his vulnerability stays with you. He’s more than real, he feels like our friend. With VR there’s no longer a separation between me and the story. That’s the magical thing about what VR is to me.”

A New Set of Opportunities and Creative Constraints for Cinema

HenryHenry” is the second VR film produced by Oculus Story Studio after “Lost.” Both films will be part of the initial VR content pack that will be distributed for free to all Oculus Rift owners when Facebook’s VR headset hits the shelves in early 2016. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said that Oculus Story Studio’s productions are meant to demonstrate the potential of the format, and added that 10 to 20 pieces of content will be available for the Rift at launch.

Of course, VR cinema will take off only if a critical mass of consumers will buy VR headsets, and compelling initial content must be available for that to happen. Besides producing VR demos and short films, Facebook’s VR creators are exploring and analyzing the challenges of telling a story in VR.

“What sets VR apart is the feeling of being present,” states the Oculus Story Studio website. “This creates an entirely new set of opportunities and creative constraints. Storytelling has a new vehicle and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities.”

Hollywood is debating whether virtual reality will take off and how producers will make money from the technology, Reuters reports. Award-winning directors such as Guillermo del Toro, as well as Walt Disney Co’s LucasFilm, are testing out the platform.

“You can’t really understand it by just hearing about it. You have to try it,” said Luckey. “I’m a strong believer not everyone is going to love VR right now, but everyone has a use for VR eventually.”

In related news, Nokia announced OZO, a VR camera designed and built for professional content creators. The camera was unveiled at an entertainment industry event in Los Angeles attended by representatives from major studios, production houses and media and technology companies.

Images from Oculus Story Studio.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.