Everyone loves a good story. Whether that is a creative story meant to elicit emotion, educate, or entertain, or it is a marketing story with the final goal of promoting a brand – there’s no denying the power of engaging storytelling.
Stories can consume us in ways that little else can. We get so invested in the plot and the characters – and the world – that we hardly pay attention to real life until we’ve reached the end. Storytelling is an impactful marketing tool, bringing businesses closer to their consumers and helping them build an emotional connection. In a world of marketing sameness, a unique story may be just what your brand needs to stand out.
A new way of telling your story surfaced with the rise of VR technology with VR Storytelling. AR and VR have become an integral part of marketing for many businesses, and now you can also use these innovative platforms to drive sales and evolve your brand.
How to tell a story in VR
Choose between a 360-scene or full VR
The ‘360-degree scene or VR’ debate is a question of interactivity. Do you want your audience to simply stand there (sit there) and enjoy the story passively, or do you want them to be an active participant in it?
The latter choice (an interactive story) opens the door to visual-novel-like gameplay in VR. You’d have to think about what choices your audience member is allowed to make in the story and how the story branches out based on those choices. Do all of the branches have a happy ending or does your viewer need to make the right decisions to save the day?
If you’re looking to engage your audience and leave a lasting impression on them, an interactive short story where they become involved in the plot and even control it is a great option.
Get the viewer’s attention
Regardless of which of the above versions you go for, you need to understand that the 360-degree world is a big one. This is different from simply sitting back and following what happens on a screen. If you want to make full use of the 360-degree environment and want your audience to follow it, you need to be innovative. You need to direct your audience where to look, especially if something suddenly starts happening behind their backs.
Use triggers like sound, light, or movement to guide your viewer to turn their head to a different part of the scene. They won’t know where the action is happening unless you tell them.
Think about camera placement
VR is a fully-immersive medium that occupies all five senses; or most of them at least, since taste and smell are still debatable. The visual aspect of VR can’t be overlooked. Like with filming any other type of story, you need to consider scene cuts, camera angles, the height of the camera, and the distance between the camera and the action of the scene.
Pay attention to whether you want the camera to be stationary or moving around. Keep in mind the intricacies of wearing a VR headset – you don’t want to give your audience motion sickness through misjudged camera speed or movement.
Past or present
Stories are largely told in the past. “Once upon a time,” and similar phrases are used to retell a significant or a fantastical event. However, VR provides a unique opportunity for your audience to witness the story as it unfolds. They can follow the characters on their journey and experience all the emotions first-hand – the exhilaration of flying a jet, the worry over an ill family member, the tranquility of reading a book in a quiet room – your audience is no longer just an audience; they become a part of the world.
Trial and Error
VR is a relatively new technology – one that has only in recent years become interesting to a wider audience. Only a few storytellers and filmmakers specialize in weaving stories in VR (Jessica Kantor being one of them).
As with anything, getting the tone, the mood, and the emotion of the story right in VR will take some trial and error. If you’re just diving into it, allow yourself some time to experiment. Think about what message you want to convey; what feeling you want the viewer to walk away with. Use the special VR features we talked about to craft a story that everyone will want to be a part of.