Cycles is about memory, nostalgia and living spaces. It was inspired by Gipson’s grandparents, who lent their names to the two main characters, and is a poignant look at a life lived in a beloved house. A young couple moves into a new home, raises a family, happy and sad moments pass, and finally the house is empty once again.
“A house contains history – little stickers on the mirrors, heights measured on doorways, doorknobs, a heavily trafficked hallway, and other traces of who lived there. You can see the life that was there,” says Gipson. The house in Cycles has a powerful presence when experienced from within, in virtual reality. “That’s the space. You feel that in VR versus on a screen,” says Gipson. “It’s so much about space. That home is as much of a character as the characters. I think that’s unique to VR. You’re rooted in a place. You feel things differently. The way you feel the light is different from how you’d feel the light on a screen.”
The clever use of light was key to one of the main challenges in narrative VR – how to guide the viewer’s attention. “If you notice, if you look right at where the action is and then look away, the image is a little bit desaturated and darkened. That’s what we call the Gomez Effect, after Jose Gomez, our Senior Software Engineer, who wrote [the code].” And great use is made of this, as well of time lapses involving the characters. “Those little staggered poses help to guide the motion,” notes Gipson.
“It’s using color and light and motion to help guide you around the space to the story,” he continues. “There’s no set way of how to tell a story in VR. On the screen we know good composition, we know how your eye follows the lead character, and how to express different moods based on composition and lighting, but doing that in VR is relatively new still. It’s pretty exciting.” In addition, “You can really take advantage of spatial sound. You hear it on your right and you look over to your right, or above you, wherever it might be.”