I got this gig via Kert Gartner! Luna is a game by Funomena which was founded by Robin Hunicke and Martin Middleton who were previously members of That Game Company. I won't spoil the story of the game, but it centers around a small red bird. The game has primarily been at trade shows as a VR game, but will have a non-VR as well!
The gameplay is centered around small terrariums where every little thing is interactive, tactile, and also musical! Each terrarium comes to life as you decorate it with trees, mushrooms, lily pads, grasses etc. In VR it's especially fun to see how each object reacts as you poke, and prod it.
When I started this project, the game was very close to shipping, and their sole engineer was focused on the game, so he was unavailable to provide me with any additional tools or support. This unfortunately meant that there was no debug freecam that I could use, and there was no motion smoothing on the monitor camera when playing the game in VR. Motion smoothing makes it much easier to get good shots using the VR headset. No matter how deliberate and smoothly you think you're moving your body, your head makes a TON of tiny movements that can be nauseating to watch for anyone other than the person watching in VR.
I'm very prone to VR-related motion sickness, so even scrubbing through non-smoothed footage in my editing timeline made me dizzy, and required me to take breaks. I was determined to make the trailer look as good as possible, no matter the hoops I had to jump through. I even got some anti-motion sickness medicine to help me get through the day. I wish I didn't have to go to those lengths, but there wasn't much else I could do.
Every single shot in this trailer was done via the Oculus Rift. You might wonder how I got some of these shots. I'm glad you asked!
The shots that probably stand out most are the dolly shots. The trailer opens with left to right dolly shots, and I have a couple dolly in/out shots. Even with Premiere's warp stabilizer, it would've been darn near impossible to get those shots while wearing the headset. I even experimented with a soft neck brace to reduce my head movements, but it still didn't help that much.
So I had to figure out a way to smoothly move the headset. This is what I first came up with:
I have carpeted floors in my apartment, and pulling these IKEA chairs across them proved to be smooth enough that with some warp stabilizer, they looked pretty darn good! Bubba ended up not being the best solution, because his head is too large for the Rift. What I ended up doing was putting the rift on a Doraemon plush I had. In the game I could recalibrate the position of the terrarium until it was in the right position to be filmed via my Doraemon dolly.
Doraemon served a double purpose because the Oculus has a sensor on it that automatically turns off the headset if there's nothing within its range. Fitting it onto Doraemon meant that the headset was always active. Doraemon alone was too wobbly, so I put a blanket (knit by my mom) under him, which gave enough support to stop him from wobbling. I also had a box and another plush around in case I needed to adjust his elevation. The shape of the plush was perfect because the headset fit on his head, then the front of it could rest on his feet, so it worked if I position him on his back!
The ideal situation would've been if I had a wheelchair or something that could move smoother, but this worked just fine, and I was satisfied with the shots that I got. Obviously I would've vastly preferred a freecam and motion smoothing, but it was actually kind of fun figuring out this solution.
As for actually making the trailer, I focused mostly on matching actions to the music. It felt in keeping with how musical the game is, and I think just makes it more fun to watch. The goal of this trailer was to showcase the tranquil feel of the game, and the interactivity of the objects.
The music I used for the trailer is actually the same as the music in this scene, so I was able to use it to time out my movements by just waiting for the section of the song I was syncing to, and then performing my actions.
Overall I'm pleased with how this turned out, especially in light of the difficulties I went through making it. My advice to people making VR games is to get that camera smoothing implemented as soon as possible, because it's essential to showing your game!
The way I understand it is that it takes additional computer memory to have the monitor display a different image than what's in the headset, so I'd understand the hesitation to implement it. The reason the headset image isn't smoothed out is because that lack of motion fidelity can nauseate the user. But for some of the Cosmic Trip trailers I captured with a motion-smoothed headset image without any significant dizziness. Looking at unstabilized footage in Premiere was actually much more nauseating.
All that aside, Luna is a very chill and tranquil game, so if that interests you, please check it out!