Dublin-based Pink Kong Studios' 'Aurora' is Ireland's first animated VR short film.
Aurora, Ireland’s first original animated VR short film, produced by Dublin-based Pink Kong Studios, premiered at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival last month. The film was shown as part of the Immersive Stories Conference curated by Eoghan Cunneen of ILMxLAB and received a phenomenal response from festival goers.
“Emerging technologies have always been on our agenda since myself and Niamh (Herrity) founded the studio in 2014,” says director Aoífe Doyle. “Aurora has afforded us the opportunity to realize a goal of creating a storytelling piece in VR. It’s amazing that you can don a headset and be transported to another world. That’s the great thing about immersive storytelling.”
Doyle and producer Herrity, alongside writer Denis James Ryan, were awarded a bursary of 30,000 euros by ADIFF, Screen Training Ireland and Audi Ireland to produce Aurora. Aurora immerses the viewer in powerful visuals and sounds of nature, and its emotive storyline offers a captivating experience that invites the audience to reflect on the nature of time.
“Watching people re-emerge from the world of Aurora with tears in their eyes was mesmerizing,” says Ryan. “The final piece really connects with people on an emotional level.”
Pink Kong Studios was keen to create a VR film that was both artistically and story driven.
“Aurora is a great experience for VR enthusiasts and first-time users alike,” says Herrity. “We were conscious that it will be screened at ADIFF’s Virtual Reality Arcade. It was the first of its kind in Ireland, so we understood that a lot of the audience may be new to the medium. We wanted to give them something beautiful and engaging that would leave a lasting impression on them.”
The art direction of the film stays true to Pink Kong Studios’ 2D sensibilities. The virtual environment built for Aurora incorporates both 2D and 3D elements. The film has a playful color palette, which takes inspiration from the aurora borealis (the film’s namesake) and the team has taken great care to ensure the viewer can see brush strokes on characters and elements within the film.
The film was in production for four months, with the direction team based in-house at Pink Kong Studios’ head office in Dublin. Aurora premiered as a room-scale experience using the HTC VIVE, allowing certain elements of the film to be interactive.
“If you’re patient and still, you can enjoy the beauty of a fawn and its mother grazing a few feet from you but move too quickly towards them and you have the ability to spook them … just as you would in real life,” says Doyle. “The desire to implement these additional experiences for the audience within such a tight schedule led us to bring Peter Craddock and the team at Manchester-based Studio Liddell on board the project. We worked closely together to stay true to the vision of Aurora and I’m really proud of what the whole team achieved in such a short turn around.”
Aurora is now set to embark on the international festival and VR and tech conference circuit. Pink Kong Studios is keen to continue in the world of Immersive storytelling.
“We have already started development work on our next VR project,” says Herrity. “Storytelling in VR is something that is still being fine-tuned, and we are excited to be part of that.”.