Last night I had the pleasure of hearing the Google VR team from Google Spotlight Stories present their key learnings, process and take-aways from the production of their latest achievement Pearl. See full event details for the official summary.

The Presenters

Rachid El Guerrab Project Lead    @Google VR/Spotlight Stories    LinkedIn   Twitter

Rachid El Guerrab
Project Lead

@Google VR/Spotlight Stories


Scot Stafford Creative Director, Music and Sound   @  P  ollen Music Group    LinkedIn

Scot Stafford
Creative Director, Music and Sound

@Pollen Music Group


David Eisenmann

David Eisenmann was the Producer of Pearl, who opened up the talk and then came back for the closing wrap-up. 

David's key messages were helpful reminders to be mindful of the spirit of innovation: 

  • Remember how important it is to build a team of diverse capabilities and talents
  • Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done, because we just don't know enough yet
  • Goes without saying, the Sound and Music design is essential
  • He will never build a VR short again without bringing on a film Editor


Rachid El Guerrab

Rachid gave us a delightful introduction to Google Spotlight Stories , bringing us up to speed as to their approach and thinking when it comes to immersive storytelling. He clearly loves the work he does and has a deep appreciation for the emotional impact a story can have on it's viewer. I found his talk incredibly resonant, especially with regards constantly being attune to the user context and experience.

Follow Google 360 Spotlight Shorts

Rachid started with how as member of the ATAP team, they were thinking about the phone as a window to a story, and asked themselves how do you tell immersive stories. He believes it's a user experience, not just about film because the viewer is immersed and able to interact with the story itself.

He also suggested to catch the ATAP talk at Google I/O 2016 as posted below.

Rachid talked about how Stories have structure and require techniques to allow the creators to draw focus and attention to the right moment. Every moment should be a reward to the user, even if they veer off the main scene you want them to look at, but you have to devise ways to get their attention gently and bring them back to where you want them to proceed.

He also mentioned the thought process and discovery of being able to build mini-stories or subplots within the context of the overall story. For example, with Special Delivery, the viewer would see smaller vignettes if they looked away from the main storyline, and that's ok. This became thematic in the development of Pearl as it had a total of 38 different scene changes (which were all synchronized to one track of music).

Another great example of this technique is in the Short Feast directed by Patrick Osborne (who also Directed Pearl). At first, you think the movie is about a dog, but on second look you see in the background the story of his Master. 


Cassidy Curtis 

Curtis gave us an incredibly insightful overview of his working process. He talked about how he was onboard to help bring the artistic integrity of the original sketches and concepts to light as well as some of the challenges 360 poses when developing the actual scenes, cuts and rhythm. Below you'll see some of the original sketches and the timeline they started out with on the whiteboard.


Proof of concept

Here is a very short video of their first proof of concept which took about six weeks in total to produce. I like how he mentions that you know when you look back on baby pictures of yourself and think you were cute, but really you were kinda ugly? That's how he feels looking at this, but if you've seen Pearl, you'll see how pivotal this piece really is and how effective it is at demonstrating the overall setting.

Finding the style

I missed the name of the artist who drew this station wagon for Cassidy but the key about this is how he used this to create the color palettes and map colors to the polygons.

The figure of the woman, made by Tuna Bora helped Cassidy interpret the style for the film, especially with regards to color palette, lighting and brush stork effect.

Lighting, Gradients, Special Effects and Glows


Scot Strafford

Scot was without a doubt critical to the success of the overall emotional journey. I personally cried the first time I saw Pearl, and it wasn't even in a google cardboard. The real experience begins in the headphones (not to say I am not dying to experience it on the Vive soon!).

Below is a behind the scenes clip with Patrick Osborne, David Eisenmann and the Team.


Wrap-up with David Eisenmann

By the way, did I mention they produced 5 different versions of Pearl? 5.

Hope you are able to feel at least a little bit more connected to the event. I'm not a blogger or any kind of correspondent, but felt this was just too good of an event not to share! Hope you like this and please feel free to pass along. 


Brought to you by Allison Ivmark, student of all things VR.