The next drama frontier

A Singapore-based company is working on a virtual reality series that is set in space

The PhoenIX is intended to be a nine- or 10-part series centring on a band of mercenaries. PHOTO: WARRIOR 9 FILMS

The Virtual Reality (VR) experience is currently available largely for gaming, but a Singapore-based production company is pushing the boundaries with a full-length series to be experienced in the VR world.

The animated science-fiction series for adults, called The PhoenIX, had its three-minute-long concept trailer premiering at the Singapore Media Festival's Asia TV Forum & Market in Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre on Wednesday.

Set in space, the story centres on a band of mercenaries who tries to unite humanity against a common, unnamed enemy.

The five-man team behind the production is Warrior 9, a company started in 2014 that believes VR is the next step in the evolution of storytelling. Chief executive officer Ashima Thomas, 37, points out that "no one is doing serialised content in the VR space yet".

The PhoenIX is intended to be a nine- or 10-part series with each episode between five and 10 minutes long.

While the team is currently in the fund-raising stage, it has already started work on episode one, including motion capture and sound recording.

The team's members come from television production, film-making and theatre, but as VR territory is still largely unexplored, they are constantly experimenting.

"Our greatest challenge is creating a cinematic language around VR because the usual techniques and tropes that have been used for screenwriting can't be applied," says Mr Abhi Kumar, chief creative director at Warrior 9.

Mr Kumar, 38, adds: "When you watch a 2D movie, you're familiar with close-ups and jump cuts and all those kinds of things, so you understand the language of cinema. But the language of VR is not there yet, we're creating it as we go along."

While audiences watching 2D films have to look only in front, the VR experience - which involves wearing a headset and headphones - is far more immersive and requires them to turn around, or shift their body, to fully enjoy it.

Actor Prem John, 38, who stars in the series, says that unlike traditional films that "give you a recipe that you've then got to follow step by step", a VR film gives viewers an illusion of control of the narrative. "You can choose which part you want to participate in," he adds.

Other productions that were in the line-up of film, television and animation offerings at the Singapore Pavilion at Asia TV Forum & Market included Jimami Tofu, the first feature film of Singapore-based BananaMana Films.

The romantic feature set in Okinawa and Singapore will complete principal photography this month. It has already entered pre-sales agreements with international distributors such as Korean media giant IHQ, Japanese global TV platform Viki and Encore Inflight, a content distribution platform for in-flight entertainment.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline The next drama frontier. Subscribe