ILM developing interactive virtual reality Star Wars movies
As studios continue to push the theater-going experience via IMAX, 3D, and other formats, Industrial Light & Magic is exploring the use of virtual reality and film. With the buzz surrounding Oculus Rift and what it could mean for the future of movies, ILM has developed the ILMxLab as an experiment on making movies fully immersive and interactive.
USA Today got a chance to test drive some of the new technology which is tentatively set to debut alongside the premiere of J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS this Christmas. One scenario utilized an iPad which allowed the user to move 360-degrees around a scene featuring R2-D2, C-3PO, and Storm Troopers in a dusty village. The other, using an Oculus Rift, the same scene played out but this time the point of view is from on board an X-Wing fighter jet, which not only flies around the village but also responds to banking commands with head tilts.
ILMxLab's creative director John Gaeta had this to say about their goal.
"What we're aiming for is to open the two-dimensional world of the movies and allow fans to walk into those worlds with the same visual fidelity. All that George begat caused a reassessment of innovation from movies to video games. The next 40 years of ILM is about exploding that universe with tech once again. xLab is as attuned to Silicon Valley as it is to Hollywood."
Ultimately, ILMxLab is not building video games but rather image-quality movie sequences where the viewer is able to explore other elements within a scene that deviates from the narrative of the director's final cut of the film. Think of it like scene-branching feature on some DVDs and Blu-rays that allows you to watch deleted scenes where they would have appeared in the film itself.
This technology is still in the early stages, but I would be willing to bet this is more likely the wave of the future rather than 3D or larger screens. Not only can this experience be replicated in a home setting but it would also make being the first to experience it when a film debuts all the more vital since you cannot torrent or stream this type of technology. Whether it looks as good as it sounds remains to be seen.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens on December 18th.
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