I admit, I haven’t seen this video using any sort of VR rig, which was the intent. But even in a simple two-dimensional video format, the simple, wordless tale of a man, his daughter, and their car manages to get you right in your feels-gland, and makes you remember what an important part of our lives our cars are.
The video is called Pearl, and it’s part of Google’s experimental Spotlight Stories project. This one is directed by Patrick Osborne, who you may know from the charming dog-and-food-focused Pixar short called Feast.
Pearl has a similar sort of visual style and understated, almost voyeuristic approach to interacting with the characters and seeing their lives in the in-between moments of living. It’s quiet and powerful in a way that sneaks up on you.
The short was designed to be watched with some sort of VR gear, which would give you a full 360° view of everything. This sort of experience can sometimes be jarring and difficult, which is why the interior of a car was chosen. As the director explains in this Fast Company article,
Osborne’s solution was the car—a perfect setting for many of the design challenges of VR. Think about it. You sit in a car, just like you might sit with a VR headset on, so the sensation makes more sense to your body than pretending you have wings and floating you around an environment. Additionally, the car can be a conceptual anchor to changes in time and place. So the inside stays familiar, but the weather or environment out the window can change without it being jarring.
“What’s weird about VR, in our earlier stories, is you’d get this disembodied-head experience,” says producer David Eisenmann, alluding to animations that exist in a sort of setting-less ether. “So one of the nice things about the car is it’s an aesthetic people are used to. You’re sitting in a stationary object, but beyond that, everything is moving and you’re expecting it to change.”
I’ve always loved this sort of concept about a car: it’s simultaneously an object and a location unto itself. The idea of you being “in the car” is almost an independent location from wherever that car happens to be.
Oh, and if you watch it on YouTube, you can pan around the car with the four-way arrows in the upper left. It’s not full VR, but it gives you an idea.
It’s worth watching, even in the neolithic two-dimensions that I watched it in. And I’m still trying to decide what the car is. So far, I’m actually thinking something ‘80s and GM. Maybe a Citation? I can’t imagine one lasting as long as this one does, but still, you know, movie magic.