VR cinema is here – and audiences are in the drivers’ seat
VR cinema is here – and audiences are in the drivers’ seat
The Limit VR – movie review: Move fast and break everything
The Limit VR – movie review: Move fast and break everything
Felix & Paul Studios’ Gymnasia to Premiere at Tribeca
Felix & Paul Studios’ Gymnasia to Premiere at Tribeca
Vive Studios has just the man to find new VR audiences - Jesus
Vive Studios has just the man to find new VR audiences - Jesus
Field of view: Minecraft AR for phones teased by Microsoft
Field of view: Minecraft AR for phones teased by Microsoft

Peek Inside Harry’s Unraveling Mind in Awake Episode One – A VR Film Review

    Awake Episode One is a 20-minute, 9-chapter, episodic VR film by Start VR. It was published in December 2018 on Viveport and Steam for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. To watch and review, I used my Oculus Rift and stood to watch and interact with it.

    awake episode one chapters

    Awake or a Waking Nightmare?

    VR has been described as an empathy provoking machine. As a psychological drama and thriller, Awake Episode One tugged at my sympathy for the main character Harry and his partner Rose. They seemed to have a pretty good life with a nice home and adored each other.

    The volumetric capture of their real performances made all the difference in crafting an uncanny world that they lived in. Yet, on high quality settings I did notice some wavy surfaces and grainy textures on objects and characters. Especially the skin and clothing. Furthermore, if you get closer to certain blurred objects like the storm in a tea cup and any writing the clarity improves.

    Jake McDorman did an amazing job playing Harry. His interactions with Analeigh Tipton’s character Rose raised the emotional stakes. As Harry starts to draw glyphs and symbols and his attention goes towards obsession and delusion, that’s when things get interesting. It’s a dark contrast to the hope we got a glimpse of at the beginning.

    awake episode one the desk

    Throughout, Rose is trying so hard to understand him and to go along with his obsession with the glyphs and symbols. You can’t help but feel sympathetic to her good intentions as hope transforms into helplessness. The jumps from reality to memory to dream state set up an environment that also coaxed out some fear in me. This is why I label it as part psychological thriller.

    The Virtuality Group Arcade Machine Experiences. The 1990s saw huge developments in virtual reality. With the rise of the arcades and arcade games, it was only a matter of time, before developers started coming up with new and exciting concepts and ideas. A company known as The Virtuality Group was at the cutting edge of virtual reality, launching a wide range of arcade games and machines that let either one or a couple of players immerse themselves into amazing 3D visual experiences. This happened in 1991, a year before the movie The Lawnmower Man further introduced the Virtual Reality concept to a wider audience of people.

    Who to Trust?

    The flashback (or dream meets hallucination) that takes us into the room with the bird and the phone rings alsogave me the chills. Nicholas Hope was the mysterious voice on the other end of the call talking about perspective. It also sounded like he played the shadow man, making it even more creepy and ominous. From Harry and the viewer’s perspective, can he be trusted? Or is Harry’s mind untrustworthy? There was another character dressed in a full body containment suit that would go to Harry at the peak of his distress and shoot him with some drug. Eerie like something out of a horror film madhouse. This makes me question whether Harry is actually a patient in a mental ward with the way the shadow man appears to take away Rose.

    awake episode one back to sleep - VR film review

    The episode takes place in a third and first person perspective. This is something only VR can play around with as a psychological device. When not standing in as Harry or standing next to him, the viewer appears as a light source.

    Taking on different forms allowed me to interact with the glyphs. This allowed for scene changes but also the phone and suitcase as a catalyst to events. I liked that this experience allowed for that kind of participation. Way more interesting to be a part of the film than staring at a 2D box.

    Some of the Best Applications Have Nothing to Do with Gaming. Typically, when people think of virtual reality, they think of computer games. This is unfortunate because some of the best and most interesting virtual reality experiences out today have nothing to do with gaming. There are virtual reality travel experiences, virtual reality documentaries, and much, much more.

    This isn’t just a watch and get taken on a mental rollercoaster. In small doses, your hand is controlling Harry’s fate, which seems to be fixed and destructive and at other times lost in what was and what could be. Poor Rose. Did she die? I guess we’ll know when another episode releases. It is Awake Episode One, afterall.

    Life’s Ups and Downs

    Switching up the POV is something this VR film did well but also hiccupped with. The ups and the downs of the couple’s relationship and his mental illness straining the relationship were clear. Harry could lose his mind at any moment and she could leave his memory and Harry’s reality in the time it takes to think another thought.

    awake episode one rose

    Perspective is powerful in VR and in Awake. I didn’t want to be standing so closely to Harry and Rose in the climactic scene. When Harry flickers in and out of the scene and the elusive shadow man popped out of the closet with a shadow gun, that jarred me. If I wasn’t a horror fan I wouldn’t like this at all. Which makes me think, poor Harry.

    VR is a new world of possibility for film, so I understand why Awake Episode One is episodic. I do desire further character development and reliable interactions with other characters to explain why he is the way he is and a solid ending.

    It Can Take You Places. One of the best experiences of virtual reality is using the technology to travel to places that you haven't been to. The right simulation can allow you to walk around some of the most important places around the world. In addition, virtual reality allows users to watch special documentaries that put them right in the middle of the action. Some of the top film companies are now producing documentaries made specifically for virtual reality headsets.

    I’d also like to confirm where Rose went and if she actually died or was killed off by Harry’s mind. All in all, I want to have some sort of steady ground and reliable moments of clarity for Harry, though that may never be the case.

      At Sundance, Virtual Reality Filmmakers Are Evolving Beyond VR
      At Sundance, Virtual Reality Filmmakers Are Evolving Beyond VR
      First Man Film Gets Oscar Buzz and On Boards VR and AR Tech
      First Man Film Gets Oscar Buzz and On Boards VR and AR Tech
      Field of View: Oculus and PSVR leads the VR sales resurgence
      Field of View: Oculus and PSVR leads the VR sales resurgence
      Best VR headsets for 2019
      Best VR headsets for 2019