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‘Pearl’ is a 360-degree tearjerker from Google
One of the ongoing challenges of VR and 360-degree video is that the design language is still in a nascent state. While older visual mediums like conventional film have well-established conventions such as panning, framing, and stage left or right, all of these concepts go right out the window when control of the camera is placed in the hands of the viewer. One of the ways that this design language will be developed is by getting consumer-grade 360-capture equipment into the hands of the average user like the Samsung Gear 360 aims to do, but another way is to have crack filmmakers take a shot at the medium. Enter Pearl, a father-daughter short about music, the road, and the bittersweet experiences of growing up.
Pearl is directed by Patrick Osborne, whom you are probably unwittingly familiar with through the likes of Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Big Hero 6. A veteran storyteller in the 3D animation field, Osborne described the process of making a film in 360 as a challenge. As a narrative “control freak” in his own words, having camera control ripped away introduced some issues that required creative solutions. Convincing the viewer to look where you want them to requires a combination of movement, audio, and ‘helper characters’ to guide the eye. Nevertheless, you might still have to watch it a few times to catch every detail.
Give Pearl a whirl now by either watching the embedded video above or by tapping the button below if you’re on your smartphone. The YouTube app will let you watch it with the aid of a VR headset like Google Cardboard, vastly increasing your immersion. Those sensitive to father-daughter stories be forewarned, however. This one may make you cry.