Aimone Bodini

VR Creator

Narrative Language of Virtual Reality

VR is not just a 'cutting edge technology' but also a medium capable to immerse the viewer/player in another dimension and convey strong emotions. How to do so in the right way? Which techniques and tools content creators can use to convey such feelings? If the cinematic medium has a 'language', what's about VR? How to create contents with awareness?

Full abstract

Since Virtual Reality is still a developing concept, we are at that stage I would call the 'democratization of the discovery.' Everyone could have access to this technology and all could potentially contribute to its accomplishment. I, therefore, felt an urge to be involved with this project, trying to explore some of the aspects of this new and exciting technological breakthrough. However, the entertainment aspect of Virtual Reality, especially the way it allows storytelling is what attracts me the most to this product. That said if you tell a story as though you would in the film, you would soon meet problems, which would raise doubts and queries. It seems that applying the general audio-visual ‘rules’ achieved whilst watching a film or any other audio-visual content is not possible. One must take into consideration new factors which require ample research focused on studying and synthesizing a new language, a language that is specific and adequate to VR technology.

This paper, therefore, aims to explore as deeply as possible, with the entail means and limitations, what are the ‘semantic factors’, the ‘vocabulary’, the ‘techniques’ that can elevate VR from just an advanced technological product to a real communication means. To do this, it was necessary to keep in mind the language closest to that of VR, the cinematic one. Thanks to the use of specific texts, alongside the knowledge in the appearance of audio-visual content acquired both through my academic career and through literature, it was possible to decipher the language used in VR, often comparing it to the one used in film. It was necessary to determine which 'words' you could translate into Virtual Reality directly, the ones which needed adjustments and finally the words which ultimately could not be translated at all.

In parallel to this translation, it was also crucial to pay close attention to all the features that made Virtual Reality a means of communication in its own right, those factors that characterized VR and gave it an identity of its own. It was further important to ‘test’ a large number of experiences currently available to understand what these various creators of VR experiences did to convey certain emotions and meanings to their audience. In the same way, it’s been extremely useful to listen and see what these c reators expressed during the main events focused on VR like the ‘Oculus Connect’ and ‘SVVR Expo’, thanks to video sharing platforms like YouTube. Support from the study Bully! Entertainment was essential. It allowed me to use all their equipment at the forefront of Virtual Reality and at the same time gave me the opportunity to 'Narrative Language of Virtual Reality' Aimone Bodini analyze qualitatively VR experiences through the exchange of opinions and thoughts with professionals within the studio.

This research is divided into two main parts. Initially, the reader is given an introduction to the historical context of VR, briefly explaining the advancements in this technology to date as well as introducing the key figures within this field. The first part analyzes the literature available, explaining the methodology of this research and the tools that will be used to define VR language. The second part starts with a brief explanation of the human eye, how stereoscopy works, defining what is the field of view and how these features are fundamental for VR. Subsequently, the focus will shift towards the main feature of VR, or the so-called sense of 'presence' explaining the meaning and requirements necessary to create it.

The relationship with characters in Virtual Reality must also be understood and is discussed throughout as it changes the relationship that they establish with the audience is different to that through mediums such as literature or cinema. Exploring how editing works in this field is also detrimental to understanding what can be translated from the cinematic field and where new ways must be devised in terms of 'Cutting' that VR allows. The technology specific to VR is also described, in terms of both the 3 and 6 degrees of freedom, as well as explaining how it can be used creatively for narrative purposes from editing to interacting with the environment and characters. The exploration of this newly discovered language that the world hides behind single details and this topic of research requires much broader and deeper research that what was initially thought. What has been explored here is a first step in decoding the narrative language in Virtual Reality, which just scraped the tip of the iceberg. This is an important step in encouraging other researchers and scholars to demystify this area. Overall, this research is proof that VR has a language of its own and demonstrates that the knowledge of this language is fundamental to convey the correct emotions and to fully immerse the user in Virtual Reality.