Morris May is the CEO of Specular Theory and he talks about transitioning into making virtual reality experiences coming from the Hollywood special effects industry. The toolchain is very similar, and he’s excited to be able to start to exploring new ways of telling stories with this new immersive medium.

Morris-mayHe does see that there will be a bit of a gold rush into VR, and that it’s still very early in figuring how the best way to tell interactive stories in VR. He sees that a lot of the initial experiences will be more like watching a movie experience, but expects that this will evolve to be a lot more interactive by triggering actions from where you’re looking or even looking at biometric data like your heartrate as a passive input to alter your VR experience.

Morris says that he’s getting interested from producers of the horror film genre to do VR experiences because they have a lot of experience in creating first-person perspective narratives.

He also predicts that VR will change almost every industry over the next 5 years, and that it’s impossible to predict every creative application that people will think of.

Specular Theory is a digital agency specializing in creating VR experiences for clients, but they’re doing some of their own R&D and game prototype development like with their Rift Park VR experience where you’re righting different amusement park rides, but you can dial it down if it’s too intense.

Overall, Morris is excited to be able to provide an experience of awe to others like he experienced when he first saw Star Wars. He’s looking forward to exploring the new ways of telling stories and immersing people within another world.


  • 0:00 – Intro. Coming from Hollywood special effects
  • 0:45 – Hollywood experience
  • 1:07 – Transitioning from Hollywood to VR. Inspired by Star Wars and wanted to share excitement to other people. Got desensitized to special effects, but VR storytelling potential is huge and exciting. Presence and feeling like you’re there
  • 2:21 – Differences in storytelling in interactive VR. Figuring it out. Doing pure game engine and hybrid of capture. Working with horror film genre director who use first-person perspective. 1st TV show was a recorded video show, and first VR experiences are very much like movies
  • 3:42 – Creating spaces and environments for people to explore. Guiding people through a scene in open world is a challenge. Technological challenges force telling stories from one perspective
  • 5:30 – Immersive theater like Sleep No More and seeing what other audience members paying attention to. Looping interactive narrative. Most social platform. You’ll be in the movie with the friends and take cues from other people within the film.
  • 6:51 – The Life of Pi special effects shop won an Oscar, but went out of business. Love making content, but not always the best businessmen and creates a challenging work environment. Whether special effects shops will move from movies to VR. Work for hire business model vs making your own content. Opens new realms of possibilities for new streams of revenue and telling sties
  • 8:36 A bit of gold rush time and migrating into VR. Whether special effects shops will migrate from film to VR
  • 9:46 – Offshoring of special effects in Hollywood
  • 10:08 – What do you want to experience. First-person narrative. Made Rift Park experience where you can dial back the experience if it’s too intense. Working on horror experiences and being able to trigger things by where you look or your heart rate
  • 11:28 – Using biometric feedback to alter a VR experience
  • 11:41 – VR starts with gaming. Capturing and sharing a theater experience. Name any industry that won’t be completely transformed by virtual reality. Watching Indianapolis 500 from within the car. Presence where you immersed in another world. Education will be huge in VR. Judging the OCVR Educational Hackathon. Getting a sense of scale that you can’t get elsewhere.
  • 14:10 – Haptics and getting a massage in VR. Restaurants
  • 15:00 – Internet and Mobile cell phone industry and how much it’s changed society. Impossible to predict how VR will be used
  • 15:55 – Being a digital agency and creating some of their own content and doing some R&D.
  • 16:34 – Toolchain from Hollywood being applied to VR. Using game engines. Use same modeling, rendering and compositing films. Same post-production process. Everything is much harder, but essential same tools.
  • 17:22 – Motion capture with a Kinect and do simple modeling. Special effects industry has made a lot of innovations that will be applied to VR
  • 18:18 – Using Kinects for motion capture. Keeping it simple. Tons of energy to do a LIDAR scan in Hollywood.
  • 19:33 – Using a Kinect for motion captures. Maya character generator and then drive that character in Motion Builder and use Zigfu ZDK for Unity. using characterize and eventually export to FBX and import into any game engine
  • 21:14 – How it works? No one really knows. But it does skeletal tracking and will map a skeleton onto your movements. No perfect, but cheap and can’t com pain
  • 22:10 – Telling stories with VR and want to help immerse people in new ways and telling stories.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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