Geoffrey Long
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The Lighthouse in the Woods (2014)

The challenge

One team at the Annenberg Innovation Lab's Autumn 2013 Think & Do on "Re-Envisioning the Home Entertainment Experience" was thrilled by what 360-degree viewing experiences could provide for horror productions such as FX's American Horror Story. Such tools could allow audiences to experience the element of surprise and suspense first-hand. This concept of "360-degree storytelling" resonates with multiple areas of the lab's Edison Project, beginning with virtual reality and moving into the connected home or connected city.

The solution

The Lighthouse in the Woods is an immersive ghost story. Donning an Oculus Rift, the user finds herself locked in a windowless study as a disembodied voice tells how, one by one, the narrator's family fell victim to a mysterious curse. Portraits on the walls illuminate as each family member is introduced, dim as each one falls, and re-illuminate as they come back. The audience member can move around the room, but cannot leave it, and has no control over how the story progresses – replicating the narrator's experience of impending doom and helplessness.

The Lighthouse in the Woods leverages the Rift's unique sense of 360-degree immersion, but by removing nearly all of the audience's agency, it subverts the assumption that the Rift is a gaming device and delivers a storytelling experience more akin to film, TV or theater. This project also explores how storytelling could evolve for a connected home. The Lighthouse in the Woods uses portraits to tell its story because connected digital picture frames are one possible additional "screen" to use in a living room.

For The Lighthouse in the Woods, I conceived of the project, wrote both the original short story and the script, created the models in a mix of 123D Design and Maya 2014, built and coded the prototype in Unity 4.3 for the Oculus Rift DK1, compiled the sound effects, and voiced the narrator.

The Lighthouse in the Woods had its first public showing at the Innovation Lab's 2014 Evening of Innovation on April 23, 2014.

The team
Creator Geoffrey Long
Assistant Designer Austin Drexler
Creative Advisor Erin Reilly
Music Andy Rozsa
Annie Sara Anderson
Marissa Jesica Avellone
Grandfather, Christopher Talon Beeson
Narrator Geoffrey Long
The tools

The Lighthouse in the Woods was created in Unity 4.3 for the Oculus Rift DK1, modeled in 123D Design 1.4 and Maya 2014, with additional assets generated in Adobe Photoshop CC and Apple GarageBand.



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