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Despite Story Studio’s Demise, Oculus Has A Big Presence At Sundance

Five of the 19 VR projects at the festival’s New Frontier showcase were funded by the Facebook-owned VR company.

Last spring, in a surprise move, Facebook-owned Oculus announced it was shutting down Story Studio, its groundbreaking in-house VR storytelling shop.

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It wasn’t that Oculus was no longer interested in or able to fund VR content production, but rather that it had decided that the best use of those funds was to give them to third-party filmmakers. And in subsequent months, it has done plenty of that, investing in projects like Jérôme Blanquet’s AI-inspired Alteration, or Kevin Cornish’s Fall in Love VR.

But while Story Studio, which had previously produced fantastic short projects like Dear Angelica, Henry, and Lost that showcased the potential of high-end VR filmmaking, is shuttered, it is living on through one final project developed externally by the studio’s creative team. That project, Wolves in the Walls, based on a story by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, is debuting this week at the Sundance Film Festival.

Wolves In The Walls

Wolves in the Walls, a beautiful fable for Oculus Rift about 8-year-old Lucy’s imaginings of what’s inside her home’s walls, is one of five Oculus-funded film projects being shown at Sundance’s New Frontier, the festival’s showcase for innovative storytelling at the “crossroads of film, art, and technology,” demonstrating the fruits of Oculus’s commitment to put $250 million into external VR content projects.

Here are the other Oculus-funded films at Sundance this week:

  • Spheres: An episodic musical exploration of the gravitational waves of black holes. By lead artist Eliza McNitt with collaboration from Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, Jess Engel, and Arnaud Colinart. For the Rift.
  • Space Explorers: Another episodic production, the latest from master filmmakers Felix & Paul brings audiences into the training of the astronauts who could one day travel to Mars. For Samsung’s Gear VR.
  • Masters of the Sun: Presented by the Black Eyed Peas and featuring the voices of Rakim, Queen Latifah, Jason Isaacs, Stan Lee, KRS-One, and Slick Rick, this animated, comic-book-style film tells the fictional story of how a “ragtag crew” used a singular weapon, hip-hop, to take Los Angeles back from the ravages of drugs. For Gear VR.
  • Dispatch: Edward Robles’s examination of one police dispatcher’s attempt to handle an all-night crime spree. For Gear VR.

All told, New Frontier is featuring 19 different VR projects this week.

About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.

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