Tuesday, 2 July 2019

ILMxLAB Visits Escape Studios

Vikki Dobbs Beck at Escape Studios
Vikki Dobbs Beck from Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) visited Escape Studios last week to introduce our students to ILMxLab, the virtual reality pioneer that "invites audiences to step inside the world of our stories".

ILMxLab is all about immersive experiences. Their challenge as a startup venture within ILM is to leverage their in-house talent and create new experiences, using VR to tell stories in a fresh, innovative way.

As Vikki put it, we are "entering an age of experiential storytelling". To create this new reality, ILMxLab needed to "take risks, to learn, explore and discover new ideas".

Blue Ocean Strategy
Vikki talked about her team at ILMxLab being inspired by a book about risk-taking, titled "Blue Ocean Strategy", which explains how, for great companies, it's not about beating the competition at what they do, it's about finding new ideas where no-one is competing now. 

ILMxLab and VR
ILMxLab is all about telling great stories (specifically, Star Wars stories), but with new technology to drive the storytelling.  In particular, it's all about Virtual Reality.  Traditional film-making is more than 125 years old - it's a very mature business.  But VR is a "pivot point" in our history, a technological shift. The future of storytelling is immersive - it's all about "the power of connection".

ILMxLab's first release was Trials on Tatooine, in which the audience feels like they are actually on the planet, even though they might actually just be "standing on a yoga mat". For ILMxLab, it's all about bringing the Star Wars universe into the VR world.

Secrets of the Empire
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
ILMxLab has a number of areas of focus, including "Location-based immersive adventures". The first of these was the hugely successful Star Wars - Secrets of the Empire, a traditional theme park experience which combines a VR experience with a physical one, in a real-world environment.

Visitors enter a real-world set, with physical walls and doors, but wear VR headsets that create a fully immersive experience. 

In Secrets of the Empire ILM x Lab worked alongside Disney Imagineering - the department that was created to imagine, design and build the Disney parks in the 1950s.  Imagine, Vikki asked, what it would be like to actually stand next to Darth Vader, and feel his presence?

VR at Escape Studios
Of course, for our students, VR represents the next big frontier in our business: the "Wild West" of the industry.  No-one knows quite how VR will play out, and there are many who argue that the technology still isn't fully developed.  But one thing is certain - VR is here to stay. Next you visit Escape Studios - ask for a tour of our Holodeck; and check out the amazing VR experiences being created here.

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To apply for our new BA/MArt starting in September 2019, follow this link.





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