Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group detailed the making of Pearl, the first Oscar-nominated virtual reality (VR) experience in the history of filmmaking. In a blog post published on Friday, the company explained how it wanted to uncover more details about Pearl in the run-up to this year's Academy Awards that are scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 26.
Patrick Osborne, the Oscar-winning director of Pearl, revealed how his animated short was inspired by the relationship he had with his father who sacrificed his career to be with him and his brothers. In addition to that, Osborne's father was a toy designer and an artist who taught him how to draw, which started his filmmaking career and led him to where he is today, the director revealed. Pearl's producer David Eisenman said that designing the movie was a challenge as it was supposed to be equally suitable for both VR headsets and regular screens. Creating an experience that's equally immersive when experienced through different mediums is anything but easy, Eisenman said. That's why the end product is similar, but not identical across all mediums, as Pearl is actually more aggressively edited in 2D than it is in VR as the latter is naturally more immersive and has a smaller chance of boring the audience. The film itself actually started as a movie that was recorded using a mobile phone and that footage was then used as the basis for animating the final product.
Scot Stafford, music and sound creative director that worked on the project revealed that Alexis Harte and JJ Wiesler were chosen as songwriters after a thorough search and were only approved after the team concluded that their song is a perfect match for Osborne's early vision of the film. Finally, technical art lead Cassidy Curtis noted how much time and effort went into making every object that appears in Pearl a part of the overall story, especially since the movie was designed to be viewed in 360-degrees and viewers can look anywhere they want. To that effect, production designer Tuna Bora made a number of sketches that were intended to define Pearl's visual style and help other artists ennoble the original artistic vision without straying too far away from it. Both the sketches and the animated short itself can be seen below.