CBS Digital’s visual effects creative team has entered the race for an Emmy Award. Executive Creative Director, Craig Weiss and Executive producer, George Bloom, elaborated on the collaboration with Netflix. The Stranger Things Virtual Reality experience had one key mission. It was to create an interactive media faithful to the show. Our vision was to weave the narrative of Joyce Byers empathetic role so the user assumes her struggle to find her son.
The challenge was to design an experience beyond anything that could be achieved from off the shelf VR and make it scalable to other platforms. We laser scanned the actual house in Atlanta which allowed us to build an exact replica in 3-dimensional space. This allowed participants to walk unobstructed through the Joyce’s home.
We used optical tracking so participants could use their own hands and interact with real objects in the virtual world. This interactive dimension added realism by allowing users to explore the home with a flashlight and answer a real telephone. The immersive experience had a story arc with a climatic ending. All users experienced the same unanimous surprise. Every person had an unforgettable memory into the world of Stranger Things.
Netflix deployed the VR experience at publicity stunts domestically and internationally. From development to completion the production period was four months. A behind the scenes video of the cast experiencing it for the first time garnered over 1 million views. There was added buzz from social media and more VR versions were launched onto: YouTube 360, Gear VR and Google Cardboard.
This memorable interactive media gave people a unique opportunity to participate in the story world of Stranger Things.
Netflix kicked off their “See What’s Next” press event in Berlin during the first week of March and CBS Digital was there to present our Stranger Things Virtual Experience to the public for the first time. The excitement was palpable, as our collaboration with Netflix’s publicity team was about to be fully realized and enjoyed by Netflix staff, tastemakers and fans of the hit show alike. It was the culmination of months of work that ended up being a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
For any virtual set or serious excursion into VR, the first step to success is always authenticity. For the Stranger Things Virtual Experience, our team laser scanned and rebuilt the actual house from the show. We then added the voice of Joyce Byers, Winona Ryder’s character, to an actual phone call within the virtual house that puts the user in a similar role to that of Winona’s character within the show. The result is a completely immersive, at times unnerving, trip down the rabbit hole that is Stranger Things.
The culture of Netflix is built on disruption and our job was to deliver a virtual adventure that was as innovative as the Netflix brand. We did so by building a custom, room-scale experience beyond anything that anyone could buy off the shelf. Mission accomplished. Our VR experience enables users to freely walk the entire house while using their hands to hold a flashlight and answer the phone, putting each person who enters our virtual set into a suspenseful, real-time interaction on the show’s set.
Fully immersive? You bet. Compelling? Very much so. Intense? Judge for yourself by looking at the Stranger Things cast going through the experience for the first time.