Netflix’s Stranger Things VR boosts realism with Graphine Software

CBS Digital’s Emmy Nominated VR experience for Netflix’s “Stranger Things” was recently updated and made available on the Sony Play Station. (PSVR)

It debuted November 1st at Paris Games Week.  The team at CBS Digital is known for award winning Visual Effects in television and movies and Jim Berndt, Head of VR, at CBS Digital stated:  We wanted to produce the project the same way we solve visual effects for television. The main difference is our television pipeline uses Maya and V-Ray yet in with VR you are limited by the power of a game engine.  We chose Unreal to render the Stranger Things PSVR experience.  Our crew originally captured three sets from the show, one of them being Joyce Byer’s house. We used laser scans for initial meshing and then optimized the geometry. Texturing the meshes is where you see the true power of Granite SDK.  http://www.graphinesoftware.com/granite-sdk  Our Mari pipeline for texturing that required hundreds of hi resolution photographs. Our typical pipeline is to use UDIM textures to ensure high resolution results on our meshes. With Granite, texture limitations were no longer a concern. We use a large number of 8K textures without frame rate drops or loss of quality. Not to have to re texture and be able to use the existing pipeline saved us a lot of time and effort.

Stranger Things living room for virtual reality

VR is a always a challenge with quality as you always feel you are trying to stuff ten pounds into a five-pound bag.   Our larger room scale experience, uses Optical tracking, which allows the user to explore an entire environment. The power of Granite enables users to get close to all objects giving them the ability to read small print, and super fine details.  This type of experience couldn’t be achieved without their texture streaming and virtual texturing technology.http://graphinesoftware.com/our-technology/texture-streaming  Netflix’s Stranger Things VR boosted realism with Graphine software.  Check out the cast of Stranger Things Experience VR for the first time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqW4l9Y5cXY  When we approach all our VR projects, we count on added value to optimize the customer experience and Granite is now a staple in our process.  #StrangerThings #VirtualReality  Read why we love Granite Software.  http://www.graphinesoftware.com/

Emmy Nominated Stranger Things VR experience for CBS Digital

 

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.

Macbeth in VR – human contact is the ultimate virtual experience!

The virtual world meets the real world in real time.

We create unique ideas beyond the limits of consumer-level VR.   Our advantage is our knowledge of visual effects, which translates well into this new technology, where our engineers and creatives work diligently to achieve bold new visions of possibility.  Our VR developments over the past year have been an invitation to explore and test how to achieve even more immersive concepts.  For our next project, Macbeth in Virtual Reality, we decided to start with a familiar classic as a base, and to extend the story into a futuristic world where it is familiar and yet reborn at the same time.

We all love a good story, yet no story is complete without the presence of a great actor.  Our challenge was in re-imagining the scene with a live actor and allowing the actor’s performance to control the outcome.  The typical solution for a piece like this is for a producer to add content with pre-built animation baked into the scene.  Instead of using those traditional methods, we decided to heighten the experience by adding physical contact, further blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds.

We tested the concept with a live MOCAP actor on a humanoid CG character with a facial rig.  The software, latest tools and our pipeline techniques enabled us to deliver exceptional results.  We expect to begin showcasing the piece later this spring, so if you haven’t been over to visit our VR lab, let us know and we’ll schedule a time for you to come in and experience the next level of virtual reality.

 

Stranger Things Virtual Reality experience produced by CBS Digital

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.

Stranger Things VR cast reactions