We’re thrilled to announce that Penrose’s VR film “The Rose And I”, built with Unreal Engine 4, will make its World Premiere in the New Frontier section at the Sundance Film Festival 2016. A mobile VR preview of this film, titled “Rosebud”, can be seen in Penrose’s ROSE app, which will be released today for the Gear VR in the Oculus Store.
To date, cinematic experiences for the Samsung Gear VR have largely centered around 360 video. When we wanted to release Penrose’s first piece for the Gear VR, we initially thought about crafting a pre-rendered, 360-degree video of our PC-based VR film “The Rose And I”.
But after creating this recording, we realized its limitations: no parallax, lower resolution, lower quality 3D, and lower immersion because the viewer is unable to move around or interact with the world. We therefore began the more difficult but exciting exploration of porting our PC VR experience over to mobile VR with Unreal Engine 4.
From the beginning, we knew porting to mobile VR wouldn’t be simple, especially because the graphics unit of the Galaxy S6 is 150 times less powerful than the Titan Black Graphics Cards that we are using on our PCs. We had to make various optimizations, such as the use of unlit materials and dot product lighting. We also had to make judicious decisions to reduce, or in some cases cut out, parts of the experience. For example, we disabled all post processing, such as bloom, on the GearVR and removed all the dust particles. Despite these changes, we strived to maintain the charm and delightfulness that is the core essence of our experience.
Another key challenge centered around Gear VR’s lack of positional tracking—the ability of the viewer to move freely with 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF) in Euclidean space in VR. That freedom of movement is one of the key elements that made our original “The Rose And I” compelling.
For our Gear VR film, we wanted to capture some of that magic. Thus, we created a movement mechanism utilizing the built-in Gear VR touchpad that allows the viewer to rotate the primary object in front of them in real time throughout the duration of the short film. This allows the viewer to watch the story from different viewpoints. We call this particular mode of interactivity “Touch Orbit”—or “Torbit” for short.
In the same way that the PC version of “The Rose And I” allows the viewer to completely immerse themselves and move around in a world, stories in ROSE will allow a viewer to immerse themselves using the Gear built-in controls to watch the story from different angles of their choosing.