Oculus Story Studio: What Does VR Short ‘Henry’ Mean For Filmmaking?

Oculus Story Studio’s second virtual reality short, Henry, is what Wired magazine called “the most important movie of 2015.”

Henry premiered yesterday to kudos, but not due to a complicated story — Henry is a hedgehog about to celebrate his birthday alone and all he wants is a good hug. He gets a gift when his balloon animals come to life and want to indulge his love of hugs. But the difficulties of hugging a balloon when you’re a spiky hedgehog are immediately clear.

There are ups and downs on Henry’s emotional roller-coaster as he searches for a little connection on his special day. That doesn’t make it any different than a traditional animated short — what does set it apart is the VR aspect.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, creative director of Oculus Story Studio Saschka Unseld talked about what he thought of this new VR world.

Henry is a glimpse of what the future holds. 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.”

When the viewer puts on Facebook’s Oculus Rift VR head set they become a part of the story — they sit in Henry’s little treehouse home on his birthday, watching him, and even get a surprise when he acknowledges them.

Oculus Story Studio was founded last fall with one goal in mind — to find out how far they could push the limits of VR filmmaking. Producer Edward Saatchi elaborated on their objective.

“Part of the mission is ‘inspire and educate. [And making Hollywood filmmakers comfortable with the media as] ‘an art-form, rather than cinema in a videogame.”

It’s a new frontier for those diving into the adventure first. Director and former Pixar animator Ramiro Lopes Dau had early concerns.

“Can you make a character emote in VR? How does it feel? Those questions were at the core of Henry.”

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, wants “content that other filmmakers are not making.” As such, all the VR experiences the Story Studio is making will be available free to consumers who purchase the Rift.

Look for the Oculus Rift headsets to hit the stores in early 2016.

[Image courtesy Oculus Story Studio via The Hollywood Reporter]