What Fantastic Beasts in VR taught Framestore about the future of film

Web Summit: Sir William Sargent talks story, business and magic
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Ask half the world - the younger half - what they most want to do in VR and wizarding will no doubt be high on their lists.

The Fantastic Beasts VR experience for Daydream is out now on the Google Play Store, just ahead of the movie's release, and is already in the thousands of downloads. The app was designed for the new Daydream View headset which is the first hardware for Google's new mobile VR platform.

Read this: Daydream View review | Best Daydream VR apps and games

Framestore's CEO Sir William Sargent took to the Web Summit 2016 stage to talk about his FX studio's work on both the movie and the VR experience, and what this kind of experience means for the future of film.

"Technology follows the story."

This was one big bit of advice Sargent had for aspiring VR creators, and he should know - Framestore's dedicated VR studio has worked on VR experiences for Game of Thrones and Volvo.

"Having decided on the story, you can decide where the user is placed," he said. "Then you bring the technology to bear. Each platform has its constraints and it's very important not to try to go beyond those constraints. Work within them creatively. Lots of people promise to overdeliver and they always fail." Wise words.

Expand the fantasy

What Fantastic Beasts in VR taught Framestore about the future of film

Sargent hinted that this Fantastic Beasts VR experience, which Framestore worked on with J.K Rowling, Warner Bros and Google alongside the movie for over two years, would not be the last: "The initial VR experience is about to be launched," he said, suggesting we can expect more to come.

Talking over a Fantastic Beasts Daydream teaser, Sargent explained that most people's first "exposure" to the characters and beasts would be via the feature length film. But "much will be left to be exposed across the many platforms."

"My thesis is that the future of film means that the story and the characters you love will be available to you when you want, where you want and in the form you want," he continued, later. "In short form, fully immersive, at home, while you're travelling or shared with friends."

VR needs film worlds...

This much is obvious with Star Wars, The Martian, The Jungle Book and more all looking to virtual reality to expand both the story and the marketing of cinema. Framestore's CEO was pretty clear about its contribution to virtual (and mixed) reality, namechecking Oculus, Vive, Sony, Magic Leap and more.

"All of them [emerging VR and MR platforms], I feel, will have their best experiences aligned to film created worlds and stories," he explained. "And therefore will become critical and important to the economics of film."

... And film needs game worlds

Sargent didn't have a magical new word to replace 'experience' when it comes to VR apps that offer something in between a film and a game. But he did point out that in everything from production to user experience, gaming is useful. "It's a pretty magical world, there's some seriously cute creatures. The question then is - what do we want to do with regards to the user experience?"

"You can choose how you have the experience. Clearly we're directing you, giving you things to look for, very much like a game world where things are found and so on."

In the case of Fantastic Beasts for Daydream, you can use the controller to summon beasts and interact with them, perform spells, mix potions and complete puzzles. It's very much an intro to VR gaming but a well realised one.

VR doesn't need to be isolating

Expanding what we think of as a VR experience, Sargent showed off a video of Framestore's Field Trip to Mars project with Lockheed Martin. It essentially turned a school bus into a group VR headset with transparent 4K LCD smart windows that displayed Martian landscapes instead of the Washington DC streets. Oh to be a kid on that bus.

"It's something I'm incredibly proud of and we hadn't even heard of the technology or thought about this application six or nine months earlier," said Sargent, who also mentioned Starbreeze and IMAX as an innovator. "It's a storytelling platform that could be applied to hundreds of stories."


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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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