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Facebook’s Oculus Rift forms in-house studio for virtual reality movies

By Seb Joseph | News editor

January 27, 2015 | 4 min read

Facebook is to start funding virtual reality movies after forming an in-house production studio to propel the medium into the mainstream.

The internal team, dubbed “Story Studio”, will produce fully immersive movies and establish best practice guidelines for filmmakers looking to learn more about the tricks of the VR industry.

Four films will spearhead the plan, the first of which will debut at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. Titled “Lost”, the short film is billed as a real-time computer animated feature that runs up to 10 minutes, changing pace depending on the actions of the viewer.

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The idea stem’s from Hollywood’s strong reception to the Oculus Rift headgear after demos last year. Executives are reportedly excited by the technology’s potential to add another layer to the movie experience, which is fast becoming fragmented with the advent of streaming services and branded content.

Brendan Iribe, chief executive of Oculus Rift, said: “We didn’t have an answer for them. We knew how to get started with games, but we didn’t know how to get started with film, with Hollywood, with cinema. How do you create content? What’s the tools, the pipeline? Is it even possible to make a cinema experience that is compelling and rich? One of the goals of the Story Studio team was to prove that.”

To prove the concept, the business has amassed a team of experienced creatives including veterans from Pizar Animation Studios and Lucasfilm.

Much of the buzz around virtual reality has centred on video games but watching movies in this way could help popularise the technology while also pulling more premium content to Facebook. Advertisers could make ads that fully immerse a viewer to showcase products or services like test driving a car or visiting an overseas destination before purchasing a holiday package.

Since Facebook acquired Oculus Rift last March, advertisers have stepped up their exploration of the virtual reality space. Samsung paired with the technology to produce a headset that connects to Samsung devices to support virtual reality experiences, while O2 tied with the business to put fans in the shoes of one of the England national rugby team.

The launch of the studio signals Facebook is putting virtual reality development into high gear. Like Google with search, the company is looking to show it isn’t only locked into the social foundation of the company.

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