Turning a 2D narrative into a sensory experience
Turning a two dimensional narrative into a visceral and sensory experience is one of the core strengths of Virtual Reality. It was for this reason that FX Networks’; The Strain sought out Mirada, with partners Headcase VR and Digital Kitchen, to support of The Strain’s Season Two promotional campaign. The use of VR allowed the viewer to essentially join the cast of The Strain – and with the aid of wireless Samsung VR headsets – to be transported from real-world marketing kiosks, in shopping malls and movie theaters, to a 360-degree reality where vampires with wasp-like stingers hunt humans in the night.
Set in the macabre world of The Strain, created by Mirada Co-founder Guillermo del Toro, the immersed and transported viewer is led through a perilous gauntlet of predatory vampires in an infested, abandoned warehouse, where the virulent “strain” waits idle in the venomous stinger of every stalking strigoi (vampire). The viewer’s only defense against the strigoi is their guide and denizen vampire hunter Vassili Fet, a former Ukrainian exterminator – and central character of the show – who leads the neophyte viewers through a labyrinth of advancing vampires, while eluding, parrying, and slaying his way to safety – or death.
To realize this vision and stay loyal to The Strain‘s established aesthetic and narrative, Mirada Technical Director Andy Cochrane created a specialized workflow that would merge the practical multi-camera and spherical VR photography with the high impact CG Visual Effects needed to bring the vampires to life. Well, undead life.
Finding the unique balance between technical precision and process flexibility, Mirada VR created both a nimble and deliberate workflow, drawing on its natural strengths in the field; a love of storytelling coupled with an aptitude for emerging technology.
During the Interactive App Development Process, Mirada designed a proprietary VR application to run The Strain VR wirelessly across six Samsung GearVR headsets, which allowed multiple viewers to be immersed in the VR experience simultaneously. The application also facilitated the playback of real-time vision-distorting effects in the VR headset, simulating blinking eyes and tunnel vision to heighten suspense.
“Even though the GearVR comes with a solid stock 360º video player, the platform that we developed allowed us customize this app in a really unique way,” said Mirada Technical Director Andrew Cochrane. “We had total control over the experience – from sync to real-time effects and spatial audio – we even disabled the touchpad to prevent viewers from accidentally pausing the video.”
From practical photography to dailies stitching, through CG and compositing to high quality stitching, and ultimately onto the conform and online process, championing the Story remains the foundation of all efforts. It was for these guiding creative values the “The Strain” was awarded Best VR Based on Cinematic and Television Experience at the 2015 Digital Hollywood conference in Los Angeles. “Mirada was designed to be an innovator, and as an early adopter of new tech we’ve been building out our VR pipeline and process for nearly two years, this cinematic experience is another evolutionary progression on this platform for our studio and there is more come ” said John Fragomeni, President of Mirada.
During the Interactive App Development Process, Mirada designed a proprietary VR application to run The Strain VR wirelessly across six Samsung GearVR headsets...