LA’s Mirada, a design, VFX and animation studio founded by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, partnered with Headcase and ad agency Digital Kitchen to create an immersive VR experience to promote season two of FX’s The Strain, developed by Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
The Strain VR experience follows the character Vasiliy Fet, a former Ukranian rat exterminator, as he leads viewers on a 360-degree journey through an abandoned warehouse, all while under constant threat of attack from vampires.
Mirada built a custom VR application to run the experience wirelessly across six Samsung Gear VR headsets, allowing multiple viewers to engage in the experience at the same time. The application also facilitated the playback of realtime vision-distorting effects in the VR headset, simulating blinking eyes and tunnel vision to heighten suspense.
“Even though the Gear VR comes with a solid stock 360-degree video player, the platform that we developed allowed us customize this app in a really unique way,” reports Mirada technical director Andrew Cochrane (pictured right on set). “We had total control over the experience – from sync to realtime effects and spatial audio – we even disabled the touchpad to prevent viewers from accidentally pausing the video.”
Mirada facilitated the VR pipeline for the entire project and worked closely with Headcase from the start of pre-pro. Live action was captured using a cinema-grade spherical camera rig developed by Headcase, and Cochrane was on set to provide technical and creative supervision.
Mirada stitched the multi camera footage together into 360-degree scenes for dailies that were sent back to Headcase for editorial. Once Headcase locked picture with FX Network, Mirada proceeded to final spherical stitching, articulate clean-up and compositing, custom spatial audio playback for the project and designing the final delivery application.
They also called on Nuke, Resolve, and After Effects for the piece.
The VR pipeline for The Strain was developed using a suite of tools that Mirada designed, initially customized to power the Google Shop VR experience, the studio’s first immersive cinema project that debuted in April of 2015.