Many of us, at one time or another, probably imagined ourselves inside the world of R. L. Stine's Goosebumps book series. And that level of pre-teen and teenage immersion just got upped with Sony Pictures' Goosebumps film adaptation, which is winning some good reviews for avoiding a descent into horror (or teen fiction adaptation) clichés. In select theaters, Sony Pictures is allowing viewers to hop in a car with R. L. Stine (Jack Black) while being chased by a giant praying mantis.
Created by MPC, the VFX team behind the film's computer-generated environments, “magical effects” and 17 different creatures, and the film's director, Rob Letterman, the VR adventure is a neat little bonus for lucky filmgoers. MPC, who produced it end-to-end, used a combination of live action filmmaking and VFX to create the immersive experience. The motion systems technology company D-Box supplied the mechanical chairs for the VR experience, which are synced with what the viewer sees inside the headset.
“VR is an intimate and immersive platform that transports the viewer into the space and story,” says MPC Executive Producer-VR Tim Dillon. “In this way, our VR experience was perfect for Goosebumps.”
“The car chase scene is a great example of how technique meets the storytelling component of VR,” said Dan Marsh, Creative Director, MPC Creative, LA. “In the 360-degree 3D VR Adventure, viewers can look around in all directions throughout the film, but they don't have the control to walk around. Placing the viewer in the car, they can experience the scale of the scene and momentum of the chase. Jack Black, seated inches away from us, acts as a tour guide as the car flees from the monster.”
While big VR films are more than a few years off, both because of Hollywood’s phobia of new technology and the challenge of making VR work in traditional cinema settings, Sony Pictures seems to be testing the technology on their own terms. It’s a low-cost method of doing VR research and development, and a nice built-in test screening environment for viewer feedback.
So, if there is a positive response to the Goosebumps VR chase scene, don’t be surprised if Sony repeats it for future films and becomes the first big Hollywood studio out of the gate when blockbuster VR films arrive. Remember, Sony has the Morpheus VR headset—that’s the type of vertical integration that other studios can only dream of.
Goosebumps is in theaters now.