Fox Searchlight Pictures has raised the bar for VR film promotion with a short virtual experience to accompany Wild, the upcoming film starring Reese Witherspoon. Fox Searchlight partnered with Oculus and Samsung to create Wild – The Experience, which they introduced at both the Sundance Film Festival in Park City and CES in Las Vegas. The virtual reality experience allows users to step into a 360-degree film alongside Witherspoon’s character, Cheryl Strayed.
The experience has spurred a new kind of conversation among filmmakers about things like immersive vectors in cinematic VR, where the viewer is no longer subject to a Director’s imposed viewpoint. For example, there is a moment when Witherspoon’s character shifts her gaze, seemingly looking you right in the eye. If you react as you might in real life, when you look around to make sure that wave wan’t meant for someone else, you’ll realize you’re actually standing between Strayed and a vision of her Mother, who you’ll miss entirely if you don’t spin.
While impressive, Wild – The Experience wasn’t particularly difficult to create. The short virtual reality film starring Witherspoon was shot in a natural setting with just a 3D camera rig and conventional visual effects.
20th Century Fox believes that virtual reality experiences like this are the future of home entertainment. The project was actually created by Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael of Felix & Paul Studios, with help from the Fox Innovation Lab. Through the Oculus platform, the lab was able to bring viewers into the story. Fox says they intend to create virtual reality experiences for more films and look forward to a future of cinema where the viewers shape entire stories with their own actions.