Project Hypnos: 'IMAGO' - A VR Narrative

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What's Imago and Project Hypnos?

Imago is a 9 minute Virtual Reality Short film, designed to explore serious storytelling in the VR Space. Viewers of Imago can look around a full 360 degrees, and experience 3D audio. Imago is the work of Project Hypnos, which brought together artists and technologists of different disciplines to explore and develop Virtual Reality filmmaking techniques for narrative purposes. The film is the culmination of several experimental demos created by the Hypnos team, and utilizes artistic and technical techniques developed by the team.

Sam is a former dancer, who now suffers from Locked In Syndrome - the inability to move or communicate, despite being aware of one's surroundings. Sam's mother insist that there is still life, while Julie, Sam's sister, remains unsure. Viewers are taken on a journey through Sam's mind and explores Sam's relationships, fears and hopes all told through narrative, dance, and abstract imagery. Is there a way Sam can communicate with Julie, and reestablish their once strong bond?

What's the intended user/audience experience?

Imago opens with the strains of Happy Birthday. A family is gathered, singing to the viewer, ‘Sam.’ As the viewer looks around, they see that they are in a wheelchair, and on Oxygen. As the viewer’s mother places the cake on the table, she gestures to Julie, who uncomfortably blows out the candles. Your Uncle watches, and takes a hard swig of his beer. The mother applauds and wishes Sam Happy Birthday on Fade Out.

The viewer is now facing the living room, where Julie and your Uncle sit, discussing dreams and laughing, paying no attention to Sam. Mom cleans up and chatters to Sam. She then pushes Sam over to the conversation. The Uncle then brings out a present from his young daughter: A butterfly in a jar, and a handmade card depicting Sam and Julie dancing, explaining she doesn’t understand what has happened. Mom is overjoyed at the gift. The conversation turns to Julie, who has gotten a ballet scholarship. She has decided not to go. This leads to a discussion of Sam’s life as a choreographer, where Mom speaks of Sam’s abilities in the present tense. Finally the Uncle breaks: “There’s nothing in there. Sam is gone. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.” Mom, hurt, looks at Julie, who looks panicked between the two. The Uncle storms off, and Mom follows, arguing in the kitchen. Julie stares at the butterfly, which has been agitated by the yelling. “Nobody gets to see your dreams.” She says. She looks at Sam for the first time, tears up, and leaves the room. The scene changes…

The viewer is now inside Sam’s mind. In a dark theater, dancers surround Sam, as images project onto the walls. The viewer hears whispers swirling around: “You’re dead. Nobody loves you. They’ll never know you’re there. You’re a lump of flesh.” As the whispers and music become more intense the dancers close in, surrounding the viewer. Finally, with one gasp of breath, the dancers fall.  The scene calms down and slowly goes to black.

Out of the blackness is a sparkle of light. The darkness lifts. The viewer is outside, on a frozen lake. The light is from a tree floating above the lake, with butterflies for leaves. As light dawns The butterflies fly off the tree and surrounds the viewer. The viewer rises up with the butterflies to the sky.

The Oxygen is heard again, and the scene fades back to the empty living room. Now, the Butterfly jar has been opened, and the butterfly is free. It circles Sam a few times, before flying off. Julie returns, having been crying. She glances into Sam’s eyes again and pauses. She stares into Sam’s eyes, and in a moment of recognition, says “Hello Sam.”

Production Stills

Behind the Scenes of <Imago>

Experimental Progress / Testshooting / Test Stitching

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