The appeal of VR content lies in its ability to endow the viewer with a sense of agency and a sense of immersion. Well-executed experiences completely surround the audience, with no bezels or screen borders to remind them they aren’t actually in some far-off world.
Which is why I was so impressed by The Dome, an all-encompassing theatrical experience that has been popping up at recent iterations of the Panorama and Coachella music festivals. Think: A planetarium on steroids, where visitors are free to look around and immerse themselves in an environment, without actually being bogged down by a physical VR headset.
“The 180-degree screen surrounds the audience with up to 25 million pixels in each frame,” says Bobo Do, creative director for Dirt Empire and co-writer and co-director of The Ark. “To give a sense of how big that is, standard HD is a little more than 2 million pixels. So the visual fidelity is much better than any VR set available today, by an order of magnitude.”
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At the intersection of technology and engineering, you’ll find Virtual Reality — the much-buzzed about tech that will eventually be so cool that we’ll all Matrix ourselves. These days, most VR is a static, stereoscopic film which allows you to visually explore a single spot. The future of VR is more than that. It’s a fully immersive experience in which you can run, jump, climb, swim, fly, study, and research through space and time.
In this new VR-era, Sólfar Studios is blazing the path. They’ve built a VR world where you can viscerally explore Mount Everest, right now. The Everest VR experience from their studio allows the VR user to feel the wonders of being at Everest’s base camp before actually climbing the mountain in real time. You can take steps, cross rickety ladders, and even leave offerings on Buddhist altars.
It is so immersive that even though you’re virtually standing on the precipice of a virtual cliff on virtual Everest, you end up with real vertigo (it’s true, we tried it).
HTC has entered a worldwide partnership with Warner Bros. to exclusively distribute virtual reality (VR) experiences for the studio’s upcoming “Ready Player One” sci-fi movie, which is being directed by Steven Spielberg and is set to be released on March 30, 2018. HTC Virtual Reality SVP Rikard Steiber told Variety that the partnership could be a break-through moment for his industry: “This movie could be defining VR to the broader public.”
“Ready Player One” is based on the Ernest Cline novel by the same title, which has been hailed by many in the VR industry as a seminal piece of writing about virtual worlds. “It is going to be an epic movie,” said Steiber, who’s had a chance to read the script.
Steiber argued that “Ready Player One” could help VR with what he called the “Matrix problem”: The medium is hard to describe to consumers who haven’t used a headset yet. “You have to take the pill to experience it,” Steiber said.
Despite its camera expertise, Sony is turning to Nokia for VR help.
Nokia made some great smartphone cameras back in the day, but we certainly didn’t expect that to lead to the Ozo, a $45,000, 360-degree 3D virtual reality camera. Now, the Finnish company will provide expertise and Ozo cameras to Sony Pictures, which will use them to create VR content. The studio will also take advantage of the Ozo Live VR broadcast capability “to transport fans to Sony Pictures events that they couldn’t otherwise attend,” the company wrote.
There are other VR rigs out there that can take higher-quality images. And it seems odd that a camera manufacturer with Sony’s professional experience would turn to Nokia, of all companies, for equipment and advice. However, Ozo does offer live VR broadcasting, real-time on-set Oculus Rift VR playback and rapid stitching from the eight cameras. With other systems, it can take ages to patch together multiple videos, meaning producers often have no idea what they shot until much later.
Quill – a virtual reality painting app created by Oculus – will be available to download as a free beta in early December. The date coincides with the release of the Oculus Touch controller, which you’ll need to create your own VR illustrations in Quill.
With its ability to transport you into another world, virtual reality can feel magical. The same has long been true for books and movies that capture our imagination with detailed otherworlds. So what better way to promote a movie like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” that with virtual reality (VR)?
Warner Bros. has done just that with a new “Fantastic Beasts” VR experience, which was exclusively released for Google’s new Daydream VR headset earlier this month. The experience invites viewers to enter the study of Newt Scamander, the main character of the movie. Given that he had to leave for the U.S., he instructs the viewer to take care of three of the creatures he had to leave behind.
To do so, one has to trace a series of figures with a magic wand that is being controlled with the help of the Daydream controller as a way to visually draw spells in the air. There’s also a little bit of potion mixing involved, and one even has to grind down a few chubby roots with a mortar and pestle.
The experience was produced by Framestore, the same VFX studio that also worked on the visual effects of the actual “Fantastic Beasts” movie, which leads to a great level of visual detail throughout the entire experience. The study is crammed full with old books, scattered manuscripts and mysterious potions, and the beasts as well as their individual habitats themselves are truly impressive. Having a Thunderbird spread its wings right in front of you is quite a sight, to say the least.
Could you survive alone on Mars? PlayStation VR and HTC Vive owners will find out tomorrow.
“The Martian VR Experience,” a tie-in with Ridley Scott’s 2015 film The Martian, hits the VR headsets on Tuesday. Produced by Scott and directed by Maleficent’s Robert Stromberg, the interactive game puts viewers into the space suit of Mark Watney—a fictional American astronaut left for dead by his crew during an emergency departure from the Red Planet.
There are few things as universally exciting and inspirational as exploring space, and few organizations capable of sharing the thrill of space exploration the way National Geographic can. I had the privilege of attending the premier screening event for the upcoming Mars miniseries, and had the unique opportunity to experience a little of what it might be like to land on or walk on the surface of Mars.
There is an unprecedented brain trust involved with the production of the Mars series. The series was inspired by the book ‘How We’ll Live on Mars’ by Stephen Petranek. Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard collaborated with National Geographic and a team of experts including Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, former US astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and more.
The sci-fi/military fusion Edge of Tomorrow was that rarest of gifts when it debuted back in 2014, a masterful action picture with an original high-concept angle and a whip-smart script. Hollywood then scrambled to find something for director Doug Liman, a clearly skilled orchestrator of large-scale setpieces, to do with his talents. First order of business was getting him back together with his Edge of Tomorrow star Tom Cruise (their new collaboration, American Made, comes to theaters on September 29 of next year), and following that, Liman’s choice was “do everything.” He signed on for the Gambit solo picture and then bailed, agreed to bring YA dystopian franchise Chaos Walking to the screen, made plans for a Edge of Tomorrow sequel, and inked a deal to direct DC’s “Dark Universe” picture after Guillermo Del Toro dropped out.
Baobab Studios has raised $25 million to create a new kind of animated film entertainment in virtual reality. The company has already launched successful VR animated shorts such as Invasion!, a funny title dreamed up by Baobab’s creative team, which includes Madagascar director Eric Darnell, a cofounder of Baobab.
The success of Invasion! and its subsequent episode Asteroids! — as well as the pedigree of the company’s founders — have made Baobab into a very valuable startup. Baobab has raised $31 million to date.
Horizons Ventures led the funding, with participation from Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners (backed by TPG Growth and CAA), China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund, and LDV Partners. They join original investors Comcast Ventures, HTC, and Samsung. Collectively, the investors believe in the massive potential of Baobab Studios not only as an early pioneer with palpable vision, but also as a studio driving VR entertainment through strong user engagement, top management and VR animation hires, and multiple coveted awards.
This new round of funding will be used to develop more animated VR movies and grow Baobab on a global scale, said Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab, in an interview with VentureBeat.
“This is a great validation for us,” Fan said. “We focus on being great storytellers. I’m very happy with the amount raised. and pleasantly surprised at how easy it was because of the traction we have shown in the market.”
Along with the new funding, Baobab is expanding its executive team. Larry Cutler joins as chief technology officer (CTO), bringing deep technical expertise in animation and development. He was Pixar’s technical director for Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., and then became global head of character technology for DreamWorks Animation. Cutler also judges for the Academy Awards’ Technical Achievement Awards, and is a cofounder of DigiPro.
Baobab has also appointed Chris Milk, well-known founder and CEO of Within — a premier destination for story-based VR content — as a member of its advisory board. Milk has a long history of creating and inventing innovative products that have won multiple industry awards. His work tests the frontiers of interactive technology, including using VR as a canvas for storytelling.