Dear Mom: A Mother’s Day Virtual Reality Film About Immigrant Families

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 “Mother’s Day is coming up in three weeks. Would you like to set a reminder?” asks an AI assistant to a young woman at the start of this film. “Ignore,” she replies. 

Dear Mom” tackles the complexity of mother-daughter relationships in an innovative format—360-degree virtual reality. The short film is an interactive VR narrative about the relationship between a struggling Chinese-American artist and her traditional Chinese mother and the generational and cultural conflicts they face.

The virtual reality film cleverly takes advantage of the 360 format to show the mother and daughter side by side, living their lives separately on opposite sides of a 360 sphere. As their relationship changes over the years, the viewer’s eyes are constantly pulled from scene to scene. 

Created by the AmaVR team, a group of filmmakers and experience designers at the University of Southern California, the Mother’s Day film was influenced by their own experiences. Watch the virtual reality film shot on Insta360 Pro 2 below and read on to hear from one of the film’s producers, Nicholas Pudjarminta.

What was the inspiration behind this Mother’s Day film?

The core generational and cultural conflicts in “Dear Mom” were directly influenced by our team’s own experiences, as many of us have parents who immigrated to America from foreign countries. We wanted to show the tension of growing up between cultures, as well as how hard work from our parents could go unappreciated. With this in mind, our team created a relatable, realistic experience about the subtle dynamics in an immigrant family.

We hope that “Dear Mom” reminds people to reach out and reconnect with their family, especially during this time of separation from COVID-19. 

virtual reality film

Why did you choose to create a virtual reality film?

As a team of cross disciplinary storytellers, virtual reality enables us to tell our stories together in our own ways. It gives people a unique opportunity to empathize with our protagonists’ separation both emotionally and physically in an immersive experience. 

VR cameras bring us closer to the ultimate vision of being fully immersed in the story with the freedom to go anywhere and interact with anything. By integrating 360 footage within the Unity3D game engine, we are able to make walkable renditions of our characters’ worlds and align them seamlessly within the 3D environments. 

We filmed the virtual reality film with Insta360 Pro 2, which integrated perfectly into our pipeline with its quality stitching, ease of use and small size. 

virtual reality film

By offering state of the art VR cameras, the Mixed Reality (MxR) lab at USC is a great starting point for students with many toolsets to explore their stories with photogrammetric capture and 360 video. Many of us discovered our love for virtual reality during our time at the lab, so much that we have moved on to pursue Dear Mom under our own startup, Ama Inc.

Dear Mom is available to watch publicly this Mother’s Day on a variety of accessible platforms including Facebook, Oculus Store, and YouTube.


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