A Maker’s Guide: Storytelling Virtual Reality

Peter Lyle puts the current buzz around VR into perspective for Varoom 35 and asks pioneers in the field to share their insight into a medium that may change our experience of storytelling and the commerce that relies on it.
Peter interviewed Swiss Design studio Apelab, drawing tutor Roderick Mills, Chris O’Reilly CEO of Nexus Productions and illustrator Jan Rothuizen.  This is an excerpt from Jan’s interview.

In 2015, during his artist residency at the top of Amsterdam department store De Bijenkorf, Jan Rothuizen used to his spare, line-led style to depict the view from his desk. Then, with the help of digital storyteller Sarah Kostler and new media collective Zesbaans, he turned his flat, black-on-white image into an award-winning 3D space that shoppers could enter through a headset.

Jan Rothuizen: I think in VR (as it is in storytelling in general) it is never so much about what one can see and do but much more about what one can imagine. In the reportage drawings I do of ‘real’ places I use no colour and little shading – I want the drawings in combination with hand-drawn words to function as a translation of reality.

I sense that being sparse with visual information also works really well in VR. We were also surprised how easily a few black lines in a white space transformed into a room.


For this project we wanted to maintain the lines, therefore it was no use to make everything in a 3D model. Instead we worked from the different perspectives; there are five viewpoints and we made new drawings for each.

Drawing Room_trailer from drawing room on Vimeo.

I think this makes the whole feel stand out from most VR productions because those productions are very often made with models, textures and shading.

Although I am impressed with how some of those things, I’m also often reminded of videogames, and how such productions have a common feel to them even though they aspire to photorealism – I call this the ‘digital plastic look’ because it seems a genre.

Although I am in awe of all the new techniques, I am even more impressed with the human mind as a machine because it is able to adapt, translate and create stories with very little information.

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