Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Oculus short film Henry wins an Emmy

Oculus short film Henry wins an Emmy

What’s more lovable than a hedgehog? Nothing really. One of videogames’ most well-known mascots is even a hedgehog, though he is an unrealistic shade of blue and touts an uncommon trait of speed. Apparently, videogames and technology are not alone in their admiration for the spiky critters. Now the Emmy’s have joined in on the love too, since they’ve just awarded Oculus Story Studio their first Emmy for the heartwarming VR short Henry. Henry isn’t the first VR project to win an Emmy—Sleepy Hollow’s VR experience and pop star Taylor Swift’s 360-degree music video for the song “Blank Space” claimed those first-time honors last year. Yet, Henry is the first wholly-original VR short to claim the high award.

Budding storytellers can see VR as a serious medium and follow suit

“This recognition is not only a testament to our team’s creative and technical achievements, but also a validation for the VR storytelling community as a whole,” said director Ramiro Lopez Dau, a veteran of Pixar, in the announcement about their award. With Henry’s acclaim in the juried Outstanding Original Interactive Program category, Dau is not making an overstatement. Awards bring a sense of stature, and budding storytellers can see VR as a serious medium and follow suit.

The charm of Henry is its story’s simplicity. A lonely hedgehog throws a birthday party for himself and when his balloon animals come to life, he longs to befriend them. Too bad Henry has those pesky spikes covering every inch of his body—making friendship with poppable balloons a harder task than anticipated. Henry is also short in length, running less than ten minutes. Yet, it’s a short that finds itself as one of the more effective storytelling ventures in VR. The puny hedgehog makes eye contact with the viewer, and the viewer can spin around to take in their full surroundings. It feels as if you’re there with Henry, not just watching a scenario as it plays out (as is often the case with lesser VR experiences that ignore the core rules to VR filmmaking).

Aw, Henry's so happy to have an Emmy.
Aw, Henry’s so happy to have an Emmy.

Henry was released earlier this year for Rift users. Oculus Story Studio’s next project, the wonderfully illustrated Dear Angelica, is set for release later this year. Dear Angelica’s animation style is wildly different from the tried and true CG of Henry. Instead of using a typical pen and paper for its handdrawn-looking style, Dear Angelica was all crafted within the native Oculus Story Studio-created internal production tool Quill, wherein its scenes were crafted directly within VR. Who knows, maybe that will win an award or two along the way too.

You can download the Emmy-winning short Henry here for the Rift.

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