Virtual Reality .gif

posted in: A Video We Made, Media Theory | 0



So we made a 12-frame spherical stereo VR .gif. It is also available as a video from our downloads page, in case your VR video player does not support .gifs

The idea was to have as many little gif stories happening around the space as possible, so you could spend any amount of time looking around finding new little things going on around you without fear of missing anything. For this end, we recruited some of the other people in CDG (the research group that eleVR is a sub-group of) to help us create stop-motion animations all around our office library.

Director: Vi Hart

Producer: Emily Eifler

Developer: Andrea Hawksley

Animators: Glen Chiacchieri, Chaim Gingold, Robert Ochshorn, Adrienne Tran, Bret Victor

This .gif is best viewed while sitting on the floor, so your head is the same height as the camera. If you’re viewing on the DK2, with most video players you can unplug the IR camera for better cable management, and it will still work fine.

The gif is also available in a smaller and non-stereo format, in case you don’t have a VR headset and just want to put it somewhere because it looks nice out of VR too!


We made this demo available at the SFVR meetup last night. We wanted to make sure people could sit on the floor and look around without accidentally bumping into anyone or getting trampled on in a crowded space, so for this reason, and for general fun, we set up a demo rug, where you are surrounded by a perimeter of objects from the video.

We were excited to bring this to an event and let people experience VR from a perspective they probably hadn’t tried before. Down with forward-facing bias! The future of VR will not happen sitting in a chair in front of a desk!


It worked pretty well, though along with our two traditional desk demos our demo space required constant maintenance against the forces of crowdedness and garbage. None of us felt it wise to leave our corner of the demo space long enough to try any of the other demos.

Luckily people came to us! It was awesome to find that many people were already familiar with our videos and tech posts, so we could skip the introduction and go straight to discussing the deeper stuff. We’re planning to demo at XOXO and Oculus Connect, so demoing at SFVR was a valuable test run of our experimental setups.

2. On Short Form Looping Media

I think about short form looping media a lot. I think about it again and again.

I make video that is considered long for the internet, things very precisely crafted to have story and all that. I also write music, often long complex things with story and subtlety. I am often annoyed by short looping music that never goes anywhere. Short looping videos that never go anywhere.

Yet there is power to it, there’s something about being able to take a medium that happens in time and remove that tricky time element, loop it short enough that you can really get a mental handle on that slice, yet still have a chain of events.

It never goes anywhere, so there’s nowhere to go but deeper into what’s already there.

There’s power in that someone with zero musical training can, while also holding a conversation and eating, completely grok the music that’s playing. Dancing at the club, you can really get into it, because it’s still there to get into. Through the power of gif you can truly understand, and feel, every aspect of the plight of that adorable kitten in the box. There is greater empathy towards cats in a world where they don’t disappear forever after they jump into the void, but jump again, and again, and again.

Cat from this famous video: gifized by Benjamin Grelle of
Cat from this famous video gifized by Benjamin Grelle

A great story is even better when we already know how it goes.

One of the mental games I like to play is “what is the gif of ____?”. Anyone who has played “what is the gif of video” was not surprised when Vine became popular (the gif of video is not the gif, obviously). It’s fun to play “what is the gif of games.” I think it’s all the repetitive casual games where the mechanic repeats over and over, and though your actions vary slightly they are all in service of completely wrapping your head around the mechanic. The short loop is in the way things behave, though you may have slightly different input.

Obviously the gif of VR is a gif that happens around you in space. I think the future gif of VR will also have horizontal head tracking and be 3d modeled, perhaps not everything is within view from the starting position. We’d love to try a stop-motion 3d model. Imagine walking around a house where the entire house is on a 12-frame loop.

The point of the VR gif we made is to implement this idea, that despite that you can’t see the entire world at once and there are parts of the story that happen behind you, it’s ok! It’s on a loop, and you can turn to see them later. You have time to look around and take it all in, without fear of missing something.

We think this came out great in practice, and are definitely convinced to make more, taking more care to have smooth stop motion, perhaps twice as many frames, and to not bump the camera in the middle.

It’s also awesome that stop-motion VR gifs work so well, because we think this is a much more achievable thing for the average person to make right now. You don’t need 14 video cameras and a computer plus software to render stereo spherical film. Two still cameras (for stereo images) can be used asynchronously to capture each direction, and stitched together as still panoramas, as long as you’re careful about what crosses the overlap. Even one still camera could work, if you have an extremely accurate way to switch it back and forth between locations.

The end!