Virtual Reality is becoming more and more popular. Companies like Google, Samsung are investing in it and coming up with cheap ways to make it accessible for everybody (of course you can also find the more advanced gear). YouTube even announced that their videos are available in VR. So if you’re curious about this new medium and want to try your hand at it, here are five tips to keep in mind.

1) The introduction

VR is more than a 3D experience; you are transposed into this new world, and it is both fascinating and unsettling. One moment you are at home in your familiar living room and all of a sudden you’re in a forest or another country, or even a cartoon.

There is always going to be some element of surprise, but as the creator, you have the ability to control your audience’s first reaction. Do you want them to feel safe, scared, amazed? No matter what you choose you don’t want them to remove the headset, so if the first image they see is a monster lunging at them they might be too scared and take it off. That’s not good. Your audience should forget where their body is and be immersed in the VR.

So VR might take some easing into because it is nothing like what we’ve experienced so far in other story telling mediums, and when you’re creating your storyboard, take into account your audience. How are you going to introduce them to your world?

2) Directing

VR is more than just story telling. The audience is not sitting in a dark room and passively watching a screen, they are in the screen. Therefore, unlike traditional films, you don’t have the ability to control every image. In VR, the viewer can look around and is not restricted by the camera angle or position. You can’t stop your viewer from exploring but it’s your job to make sure that they don’t miss what’s going on in the story. VR is an immersive experience but it’s also a story telling medium and you have to find different ways to capture the viewer’s attention, without however restricting the freedom that VR gives them.

So don’t get too distracted by all the cool features of VR. It is still a movie after all and you are still the director. So even if your viewer has more freedom and a different approach to the film, it doesn’t mean that all the rules of filmmaking are thrown out the window. Things like mise-en-scene, lighting, sound etc. should help you convey your story and capture your audience’s attention.

3) The story

The story you are going to tell can’t be separate from the environment you create. Since your audience is immersed in the story, and can explore the surroundings, there has to be some sort of connection between what is going on and where they are. What is the best way to tell your story in virtual reality? The medium goes hand in hand with the plot, and they feed off each other.

4) Emotions

VR gives you a lot of control over your audience’s emotions, even more so than a film on screen. Your viewer might be in the world you created, but he’s still an observer. So although he sees everything, nobody sees him, and he can’t physically touch things (I’m excluding VR games that have remote controls). But because he’s immersed in this world, and is under the illusion that he is part of it, he’s going to want to be involved. The viewer becomes a character in the story, and therefore feels the need to interact with people there. Your audience is going to want to comfort your character that is in distress, or slap the annoying virtual person. They’re emotions are heightened, because they feel involved, and you can use that to your advantage.

5) Let loose!

VR opens up a whole new set of possibilities. You have the ability to transport your viewer into the world you created, and there are no rules. This is still a relatively new medium and people are still figuring it out, there are no set techniques or restrictions. So experiment, test your work and see what works, what doesn’t. Be bold!

Make a VR film in a weekend under the guidance of the UK’s leading VR creators at Hands-On VR Workshop