A History of
Virtual Reality Nonfiction

Produced by
Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters

While cinema offers an optical illusion of movement, virtual reality offers a new generation of illusion - a powerful sense of being there within a scene.

Virtual Reality nonfiction is an emergent and rapidly evolving new medium for filmmaking that draws from - and builds upon - traditional forms of nonfiction, interactive media, gaming and immersive theatre. The VR Nonfiction Mediography project aims to compile a comprehensive history of the first six years of this new form of interactive experience; to examine where it has come from, how it is developing and where it is heading. We have currently catalogued 603 VR nonfiction titles released between 2012 and 2018.

Latest Additions

Latest Research

The Mediography project is helping us to generate new insights into the past development and potential future of VR nonfiction. Read our recent research outputs here:

  1. Behind the Curtain of the "Ultimate Empathy Machine": On the Composition of Virtual Reality Nonfiction Experiences. In Proc. 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '19). ACM. **Honorable Mention Award**
  2. A Mediography of Virtual Reality NonFiction: Insights and Future Directions. In Proc. 2018 ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video (TVX '18). ACM.
  3. What Can the First Years of VR Nonfiction Tell Us About Its Future?. Immerse, 2019.

How are we choosing what to include?

VR nonfiction is an emergent medium. Our search strategy is therefore deliberately broad, including organic search (english language), social media and the programmes of leading international film festivals.

For inclusion, titles must:

  1. Be presented in the English language (subtitles accepted).
  2. Include a title card, production credits or both.
  3. Self-present as a work of nonfiction, documentary or journalism. This can be through textual description and/or inclusion in a nonfiction content programme (e.g. a documentary film festival).
  4. Present as VR media. This can be through textual description and/or inclusion on a VR-specific content channel.

Are we missing your work? Let us know at mediography@vrdocumentaryencounters.co.uk.

Random Selection

Timeline of VR Nonfiction 2012–2018

Our timeline charts the emergence of VR nonfiction content since the earliest known examples in 2012 through to the end of 2018. The timeline shows when and where VR nonfiction titles where released, highlights important events, identifies award winning pieces and charts the increasing visibility of VR nonfiction content on the programmes of leading international film festivals.

Browse the Timeline ›

How much VR nonfiction content was released between 2012–2018?

Based on 603 titles catalogued so far, this chart shows how production numbers for CGI, 360 video and hybrid forms of VR nonfiction content have changed since the earliest known examples in 2012:

Film festivals and awards 2012–2018

VR nonfiction is an increasingly visible fixture at leading international film festivals including Venice Biennale, Sundance and Tribeca. According to our dataset, these were the most prominent titles in terms of festival appearances and awards received:

Year Title Producer Director(s) Awards Festival
2017 The Enemy Camera Lucida Karim Ben Khelifa 5 2
2016 Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness ARTE Amaury La Burthe, Arnaud Colinart, James Spinney & Peter Middleton 3 8
2016 Home: Aamir National Theatre (UK) Erfan Saadati, Rufus Norris & Toby Coffey 3 3
2015 RecoVR Mosul - A Collective Reconstruction Economist Media Lab Laura Juo-Hsin Chen & Ziv Schneider 3 2
2018 I am a Man Derek Ham Derek Ham 3 2
2016 The Ark Jongsma + O'Neill Eline Jongsma & Kel O'Neill 2 6
2016 Home - An Immersive Spacewalk Experience BBC Kate Bartlett & Tom Burton 2 4
2017 After Solitary Emblematic Group Cassandra Herrman & Lauren Mucciolo 2 3
2017 Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon Alchemy Immersive Grace Boyle & James Manisty 2 1
2016 Behind the Fence The Nexus Fund Jonathan Olinger & Lindsay Branham 2 1

Who was creating VR nonfiction content between 2012–2018?

These were the most prolific directors / creators between 2012–2018*, weighted by the number of titles credited to them. Select a director to view their filmography, collaborators and awards.

Aaron Bradbury   Amaury La Burthe   Andrew Somerville   Angel Manuel Soto   Anrick Bregman   Ari Palitz   Averie Timm   Barry Pousman   Ben C. Solomon   Ben Ross   Benoît Lichté   Brad Lichtenstein   Brittany Neff   Celine Tricart   Charlotte Mikkelborg   Chloé Rochereuil   Chris Milk   Cory Tran   Dan Archer   Danfung Dennis   Darren Emerson   David Darg   David Gelb   David Whelan   Eline Jongsma   Elise Ogle   Eliza McNitt   Eric Strauss   Evan Grothjan   Francesca Panetta   François Blouin   Félix Lajeunesse   Gabo Arora   Geoffrey Alan Rhodes   Georgy Molodtsov   Graham Roberts   Imraan Ismail   James Hedley   Jane Gauntlett   Jason Drakeford   Jeff Fitzsimmons   Jeff Orlowski   Jeremy Bailenson   Jesse Ayala   Jessica Brillhart   John Durrant   Jonathan Williams   Jules Izac   Jörg Haaßengier   Jürgen Brügger   Kel O'Neill   Lindsay Branham   Luca Guadagnino   Lucy Walker   Lynette Wallworth   Marshall Curry   Marshmallow Laser Feast   Mary Matheson   Matteo Lonardi   Max Salomon   Mia Tramz   Mitch Turnbull   Navid Khonsari   Nicolas Jolliet   Nicole Jackson   Nonny de la Peña   Oscar Raby   Pablo Mahave   Patrick Meegan   Paul Raphaël   Peter Boyd Maclean   Phil Harper   Raphael Beugrand   Raphaël Guillet   Ricarda Saleh   Romain Vakilitabar   Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy   Shehani Fernando   Stephanie Riggs   Tarik Benbrahim   Taylor Steele   Theofanis Matsopoulos   Tyson Sadler   Ulrich Grech-Cumbo   Vassiliki Khonsari   Victor Agulhon   Viktorija Mickute   Yasmin Elayat   Zach Richter   Zahra Rasool   Ziv Schneider  

* For brevity, we only directors who are credited with more than one title are included. For a comprehensive list, view the full director listing.

Where was VR nonfiction being produced between 2012–2018?

Our dataset currently contains titles released from 64 countries. Between 2012–2018, the top 5 producers of VR nonfiction content were:

Country Titles Released % of dataset
USA 294 49
United Kingdom 123 20
France 49 8
Canada 33 5
Australia 30 5

How has the duration of VR nonfiction content changed over time?

According to our data, between 2012 and 2018, VR nonfiction titles ranged in duration from 1 to 52 minutes, with an average of 8.8 minutes. This chart shows how the length of VR nonfiction titles has changed over time.