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Virtual reality is coming to Hollywood

Hollywood VR Laura Reese


In Los Angeles, Fox’s resident futurist Ted Schilowitz works out of the lab’s "VR bunker." It’s a large conference room with a massive bank of flat-panel screens against one wall, and two smaller rooms off to the side. One of the side rooms has an array of computers, displays, and Oculus gear, while the other is filled with props from the Wild shoot. (It also has projectors trained against each wall; Schilowitz tells me they use it for four-wall immersive experiments.)

Schilowitz, who also co-founded RED Camera, worked with Fox on several of its prior VR experiments, including the Sleepy Hollow and X-Men Comic-Con pieces. But creating something from a slow-paced drama like Wild — the real-life story of Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon), who hiked a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in an effort to deal with her mother’s death — was a different challenge. "This was this interesting kind of wild card, because it’s this very naturalistic movie that you wouldn’t expect something tied to technology," says Schilowitz. The team chose to depict a single moment along Strayed’s trek where she stops, takes a breath, and is visited by the ghost of her mother (Dern).

Directors Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël were chosen to tackle the project due to their ability to create slow, more emotional VR experiences — a far cry from bombastic VR demos like EVE Valkyrie or Alien: Isolation. The result is a VR narrative that rewards patience, with the interactive components keying off subtle cues from the viewer. Look one way at a given moment, and you may see Strayed’s mother watching over her; look at a different time, and she may never appear at all.

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