'Star Wars' Virtual Reality Experiences One Step Closer

Lucasfilm Virtual Reality - H - 2015

Industrial Light & Magic and parent company Lucasfilm have formed the ILM Experience Lab (ILMxLAB) to create immersive content — notably, experiences based on its Star Wars franchise. This will include virtual reality, augmented reality, real-time cinema, theme park entertainment and future platforms.

"Anything and everything is what you can expect," said Lucasfilm executive vp and ILM president Lynwen Brennan, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter. “The wonderful thing about the Star Wars universe is that there are so many stories that have yet to been explored. We are not restricting that universe [to the stories in the existing films]. All will be telling stories — that’s one of our core principles — with a point of view and emotion.”

She noted that this Star Wars content will be available for mass-market VR goggles, specialized VR and AR, and immersive cinema. “And the initial, most high-end experiences will be in the [Disney] parks.”

Brennan emphasized that the new unit isn’t just about Star Wars. While she declined to name specifics, she confirmed that the new unit will produce both live action and animated content and is working on other Disney-owned IP — which of course includes the Marvel universe as well as Pixar films — in addition to IP from other filmmakers and studios, and new original characters and stories. Some are already in production; the first such project, a Jurassic Park experience, is being demoed with Oculus Rift prototype VR goggles.

Creating these projects will be ILM artists — the same that are working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and other such ILM VFX work.

Brennan said the unit will also be adding staff, particularly on the technology side. She noted that for several years, the company's been investing in real-time graphics, a foundation for these sorts of experiences, as well as quality sound.

Leading the new unit are Lucasfilm's vp new media Rob Bredow and creative director John Gaeta (The Matrix).