'Star Wars' Prototype Takes Virtual Reality to Tatooine

Lucasfilm Virtual Reality - H - 2015

Lucasfilm demonstrated a prototype interactive Star Wars experience created by ILMxlab, the company’s unit for virtual reality and other immersive entertainment, Tuesday at the Oculus Connect 2 developers conference at Loews Hollywood Hotel.

It’s a linear clip of Stormtroopers searching for missing droids R2D2 and C3PO, set on Tatooine. Using an iPad and the company’s navigation techniques, a user could start, stop and navigate around the world and create new camera angels and even make cuts — what doesn't change is the story itself. The company also demonstrated the ability to experience this with virtual-reality headsets.

Said Rob Bredow, head of ILMxLab and vp of Lucasfilm's advanced development group, "Is this it more like film or games? It's certainly two areas we know really well. But there's probably things we can learn from both. VR and experiental entertainment is its own thing and should be treated that way.”

For the time being, the division is looking to how to use VR to tell five- to 10-minute stories; currently about a dozen projects are in-house. But Bredow added that the company is exploring where storytelling can go, including the possibility of two-hour movies. "Today’s head-mounted displays don't seem comfortable enough to want to be in them for two hours," he said. "We are interested in finding the right length and right content for these opportunities.

"We haven't yet figured out the language; we haven't solved all of the things we need to solve," he added. "We are not there yet to say, 'We’ll make a two-hour experience,' but maybe we'll get there."

Lucasfilm's Advanced Development Group is working on tools that could be applied to feature production or immersive entertainment such as VR. Bredow shared some of them, including the company's V-Scout, an iPad based application that allows the user to effectively "scout" virtual locations, as well as review digital assets, using VR head gear and an iPad for navigation.

It also involved a custom real-time look development system. "This means we can dial in the materials [i.e., glass] for VR or films," Bredow said."We are able to paint and see the final result in real time."

"Once you have this real-time foundation established, we can use it for VR, augmented reality, interactive storytelling and other new systems," Bredow said. "As we move to real time it opens up an array of storytelling opportunities."