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'Phone of the Wind' VR Experience Aims to Connect the Living and the Dead

New interactive VR film created by Ntropic and Oculus partnership was produced by Yes Please Thank You

'Phone of the Wind' VR Experience Aims to Connect the Living and the Dead

Seeing the need for boundary-pushing VR content, Yes Please Thank You (YPTY) set out to tell the moving, true account of “Phone of the Wind” with the help of Oculus and creative studio Ntropic.

Mixing live action and Quill animation as well as interactive assets, the 360 film offers a truly enveloping experience for viewers and the powerful nature of “Phone of the Wind” made it a delicate and emotional story to produce.  

In 2011, a devastating magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Northeastern Japan led to the deaths of nearly 20,000 people with some 2,500 still reported missing. Before the terrible event, a resident of the area had placed a disconnected phone booth in his private garden. He hoped to somehow connect with a lost loved one, wherever they may be. After the disaster, word of the booth spread and countless people who were affected came to his home, picked up the silent phone and spoke to family and friends who perished on the tragic day, to feel their connection once more. YPTY’s “Phone of the Wind” follows actual accounts of people who have visited the seemingly mystical locale.

Such a unique story deserved a novel telling, and so the team set out to create a VR film that beautifully depicted each true personal scenario. 360 live action scenes were filmed on site in Japan to capture the phone booth and its visitors, then the team brought the footage into editorial to recount the memories that were shared before constructing them in Unity. “Going to the phone booth and experiencing the spirituality of the place helped me manifest that in the VR film,” says Senior CG artist for Ntropic Andrew Cohen, who traveled to the destination. “Our intention upon returning home was to replicate the feeling of that spirituality and immerse viewers in the poignant piece.”

The stories were later created as animations using Quill, an illustration tool offered by Oculus that allows users to paint in VR on an infinitely scalable canvas. “Our goal with the animation was to really capture the stories and present heartfelt interpretations of the moving moments,” says Tali Oliver, creative director at Ntropic. In an innovative move, the live action and animated scenes were then stitched together to reveal a piece that dynamically blurs the lines between the real world and the spirit land beyond.

“Having recently lost people that I care about deeply, it was really emotional to be involved with a project that has the power to connect individuals to their departed loved ones in some way,” says Nate Robinson, Founder and Executive Creative Director of Ntropic. “Creating this piece was an experience that we had to be a part of.”

This multifaceted project also features interactive properties that enhance the user experience while maintaining the tone of the piece. To fully engage viewers in the story, Ntropic and its sister company Tactic worked with YPTY to develop a notebook within the phone booth. Users can read notes written by past visitors to the booth or write their own message, creating a virtual keepsake. 

For music, the team turned to Emoi to compose a beautiful score that allows each scene to resonate. Spherical sound design created by Pollen Musical Group further enhances the piece, mesmerizing the user with visceral 3D ambiances. The result is a composition that boldly presents honest depictions of love, loss, and connection.

The “Phone of the Wind” VR film will officially launch for free via Oculus Experiences store on 12/19. 
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Genre: Apps , Digital , Editing , Experiential , In-camera effects , PR , People , Storytelling , Stunts , VR , Visual VFX