the VR Magnificent Seven

The holidays are always a relaxingly stressful time of year, a time for family, travel and a cup of cheer. With plans set, the Rad team was settling down for a long winters nap, and a little time off for R and R... which I'm pretty sure means retexturing and rendering. And then we got an email!

Sony Pictures had put out a call to influencers to pitch ideas to promote the release of the film "the Magnificent Seven" to DVD and digital, and about a month earlier we were like, 'Sure! We loved the film, and would love to adapt it into the virtual reality world!' Having seen some of the work we had done and were working on in the VR space they jumped at the chance to work with us to develop a VR story to support their Magnificent Story. Only catch was, the Magnificent Seven was now releasing to DVD in 4 days!

Vacation plans changed and we scrambled to come up with a fitting narrative, 8 horsewomen and men, pistols, costumes and all the crew and gear necessary to film, edit and post the project on a 2 week turnaround. (Man, I love YouTube.)

We filmed the exterior scenes in Spanish Fork, UT... in a blizzard. And then filmed in an authentic pioneer home thanks to a local museum connection. Check out our behind the scenes video below:

On the technical side, we were interested in mixing 180 3D with 360 3D footage and seeing if there was an interesting way to tie those different formats together. All of the 180 shots were designed to be the first person perspective of our lead actress, Renny Grames, playing the role of Sarah Cullen, mother of Emma Cullen from the feature film. Any time we entered that 180 perspective it would be like viewing Sarah's memories. And rather than just having a voice over if you turned around and looked you would actually see Renny delivering the monologue about the memories seen on the other side of the viewport. Any time we jumped into 360, we wanted to viewer to take on their own perspective, standing in as a 3rd party observer.

The money shot was quite a little feat of engineering. We secured the GoPro Odyssey via a pulley system to a large overhanging tree limb. (Meaning Boston risked life and limb and climbed up a 30 foot tree in the middle of a snow storm to setup the shot.) The point of the shot was to give the viewer the perspective of Sarah Cullen's spirit leaving her body after having just been shot by the bandit. With some post compositing work the character telling the story was lifted up to the top of the frame, in juxtaposition to the fallen figure of Renny in the snow below the camera. It was a pretty complex thing to achieve technically, but with some fortitude and fiddling around with Mettle Skybox, we got the desired look we were going for in the end. 

It was a really fun project, certainly something we at Freakin Rad are proud to have put together! Hope you enjoy it! Hop on over to the YouTube channel, or for Gear VR users we published to the Samsung VR app as well.

Boston McConnaugheyComment