Oculus Story Studio's 'Dear Angelica' Debuts At Sundance

Oculus Story Studio's latest virtual reality (VR) film, Dear Angelica, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival's VR Palace. For anyone who wants to experience the film without heading to the festival, the company said it will soon be available to download from the Oculus store on its Rift HMD.

Dear Angelica is billed as a "visually splendid and deeply human journey through memory, loss, and the magic of a valorous life" directed by Saschka Unseld. The film is made in an illustrative style done by Wesley Allsbrook and features voice acting from Geena Davis and Mae Whitman. It is Oculus Story Studio's third film--Oculus' in-house creative team previously released Lost and the Emmy Award winning Henry in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Tom's Hardware got to watch Dear Angelica during the Oculus Connect 3 developer conference in October 2016. The film was similar to sketches made in Tilt Brush, a Google app that allows people to "paint" in three dimensions, in that the illustrations appeared in-time with the narration. It was kind of like watching someone draw an animated movie instead of viewing the finished result, though it probably didn't accurately reflect the creative process.

Interestingly, Google recently announced Tilt Brush Toolkit to make it easier to use sketches made with the app in other VR experiences. Tilt Brush still doesn't approach the utility of Quill, the Oculus Story Studio tool used to create Dear Angelica that can also be used by independent developers, but it's certainly more competitive than it was before. The timing could just be a coincidence, but it might also indicate a rivalry between Google and Oculus.

Dear Angelica itself is equal parts film and proof of concept. Oculus said in a blog post that it's the first VR film that was also made entirely in VR:

Art Director Wesley Allsbrook painted every scene entirely by hand—each character, set, and prop realized by a single artist. This is a significant moment for animation, whether based in VR or otherwise, as the field heavily relies on increasingly large teams of concept and production artists. Dear Angelica sheds light on an alternative, more accessible way to tell visual stories.

Quill is free to use by anyone with the Oculus Touch motion controller. (Tilt Brush costs $30 from Steam for the HTC Vive.) If this is a competition, Oculus might have just lapped Google by introducing a VR film made entirely in a VR app that doesn't cost anything to download, even though Tilt Brush debuted before the Oculus Touch controllers even reached consumer's hands. Learn more about Dear Angelica and its creation in the video below.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.