Pearl: Google’s VR-short is Oscar Material

Pearl: Google’s VR-short is Oscar Material

Pearl is a 6 minute animated short from Spotlight Stories – a small film studio, founded by Google and former Pixar and Dreamworks alumns.

Pearl is a 6 minute animated short from Spotlight Stories – a small film studio, founded by Google and former Pixar and Dreamworks alumns (including the director Patrick Osborne).

Pearl takes place in an old sedan, where a musician and his daughter travel across the country. They struggle, they meet new people and live their lives to the fullest. The film is musically driven and features an amazing cover of a folk song “No Wrong Way Home,” composed by Alexis Harte and JJ Wiesler. In the end the girl grows up, meets new friends and forms her own little band. The audience is left in tears. Check it out right here!

The film could be experienced in various formats. You can watch it on YouTube in 360, or put on a Gear VR helmet and check it out as a virtual reality ride. There is even a 2D-version of the film, which was shown at Tribeca. Pearl is also available at HTC Vive VR. There you can move around the car and check out the beautiful story.


Cassidy Curtis is the technical art lead for this project. Before he started to hack human perception in Google, he worked as a supervising animator at DreamWorks and as a university professor.


The team faced a lot of challenges during the production. They had to find new ways to present film cuts, find new ways to show the action to the viewer. The director Patrick Osborne decided to make artificial borders for his production: he put the whole action into the car. It’s a perfect solution for VR.


What’s weird about VR, in our earlier stories, is you’d get this disembodied-head experience. So one of the nice things about the car is it’s an aesthetic people are used to. You’re sitting in a stationary object, but beyond that, everything is moving and you’re expecting it to change.

David Eisenmann, producer (via fastcodedesign)


The Spotlight Stories is a pretty big team, which has over 40 people. Plus they get help from the visual effects firm Evil Eye Pictures. The producers also spent a lot of time on producing the song, which was recorded countless times to ensure the 360-degree audio matched the visual edits. Google Spotlight Engine is also used extensively to process everything you see in real time on smartphones. Overall there are 29 scenes in this 6-minute film.




Pearl has amazing style and animation. It’s a stunning experience, which no doubt leave you crying in the end. Check out the trailer for sure. Can’t wait to see what other developers can do with Google Spotlight Engine.



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