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Google’s award-nominated VR studio is shutting down

Google has taken the decision to shut down its virtual reality video studio, Spotlight Stories, according to Variety.

The studio was quite a high profile undertaking, working on a number of films headed by Oscar-winning directors over the last six years. Amongst the interactive content the studio created for Google’s own Daydream View VR headset and YouTube, was Pearl – the first VR film to be nominated for an Academy Award, when it was shortlisted for Best Animated Short Film in 2017.

Over the course of its six-year lifespan, Spotlight Stories released 13 films. As well as Pearl, the studio made tie ins with The Simpsons and the Wes Anderson stop-motion move Isle of Dogs.

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Starting out life as a small Motorola project, creating 360-degree videos solely for the company’s handsets, it became Spotlight Stories and expanded further after it became Google’s property as part of the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola in 2011.

Variety states that Google gave its full-time Spotlight Stories employees the chance to look for other positions within the company, but given the majority of the studio’s artists were contractors employed on a per-project basis, that’s likely at best a semi-empty gesture.  

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The Hollywood Reporter got hold of an email sent out by Karen Dufilho, the studio’s executive producer. “As many of you know, Google Spotlight Stories is shutting its doors after over six years of making stories and putting them on phones, on screens, in VR, and anywhere else we could get away with it,” she wrote. “The opportunity to contribute to story, animation, and tech has been like winning the lottery. You’ve all played a part and I’m so so proud of the work we’ve done together. Congratulations! My deepest gratitude to all of you.”

Does the end of Spotlight Stories spell trouble for VR film? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.