ILM Alumni Startup Nomadic Combines Virtual Reality With Production

Nomadic VR Warehouse before and after - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Nomadic

A group of VFX alums from Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Electronic Arts are bringing their startup Nomadic out of stealth mode with a location-based entertainment model that combines virtual reality with some of the motion capture and virtual production processes used to make Hollywood movies such as Avatar.

To demo the system, I wore an Oculus Rift headset and a backpack (to carry a computer, allowing me to move around, untethered) and entered an empty stage, with props, to participate in a story-driven experience.

“Grab the gun from the top drawer of the desk!” I was commanded as I crept through a dark warehouse. And while I see the CG desk and CG gun in the virtual reality experience, the props are placed so precisely that I actually opened a drawer and pulled out a (prop) gun. From there, I “opened the door” and crossed from the roof of one building to another on just a narrow board (okay, I removed the goggles for that part). I was then attacked by drones and I shot them down, one by one, with the “gun.”

“Motion capture has only been used by large visual effects and gaming companies to capture the performances of actors,” said Nomadic CEO Doug Griffin, who has used such techniques while working at ILM on films from franchises including Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy. “Some have gone further to capture the movement of physical cameras and display real-time virtual camera technology.

“It’s been exciting to watch how actors engaged with this, and I’ve long wondered how we could generate a new type of entertainment by allowing regular people to have that same kind of experience — not only seeing their own avatar, but digital worlds," he continued. "So we started Nomadic to create a new medium to allow participants to come and engage in magical worlds, using some of the technology that has been limited to some of these larger entertainment companies.”

The company is already talking to content partners, including studios, and distribution partners, such as theater owners. The plan is a revenue-sharing model.