Go­ing For­ward In VR With REWIND

The im­mer­sive creatives are turn­ing heads (and head­sets) glob­ally, so 3D Artist went to St Al­bans, UK to find out what it takes to craft award-win­ning ex­pe­ri­ences

3D Artist - - CONTENT -

Im­merse your­self in cre­ative new tech and VR with this ex­cit­ing stu­dio

In St Al­bans, UK, you’ll find a his­toric Ro­man mar­ket city just 20 min­utes away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of Lon­don’s Soho – the undis­puted cap­i­tal of the UK’S vis­ual ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try. But tucked be­side an or­nate 14th cen­tury clock­tower in this peace­ful lo­ca­tion is REWIND, the cre­ative dig­i­tal stu­dio that is mak­ing waves across the globe with its im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences. “About three years ago, we had a choice of be­ing in Soho with a hun­dred other small vis­ual ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion com­pa­nies and agen­cies – or not,” says REWIND’S CEO and founder, Solomon Rogers. “I just made the de­ci­sion that I wanted a point of dif­fer­ence, the first be­ing that I don’t like commuting so I’m go­ing to put the of­fice where I live. But we did go to all our clients and ask ‘Fun­da­men­tally, do you want us here or here’ and they said ‘Well first of all you come to us, and se­condly have you heard of the in­ter­net? We don’t have to be in the same lo­ca­tion’. It was very re­fresh­ing.

“Be­ing out here [in St Al­bans] al­lows ev­ery­body one or two hours ex­tra in their day. Ev­ery­body ends up liv­ing around here and they have a bet­ter way of life. They see their fam­i­lies more, they can walk to work, they have a beau­ti­ful city to live in and the com­pany ac­tu­ally gets a lot more out of them be­cause they’re not ex­hausted by a Lon­don com­mute.”

That en­ergy has led to some in­spir­ing pieces of work, like Home – A VR Space­walk, a cin­e­matic, nar­ra­tive led and fully in­ter­ac­tive vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired by NASA and ESA’S train­ing pro­grammes and the ex­pe­ri­ences of real as­tro­nauts such as Tim Peake. It’s earned the stu­dio sev­eral awards, but has that cre­ated any pres­sure for REWIND? “We al­ready cre­ate our own pres­sure, so awards aren’t go­ing to make us feel any more!” says Rogers. “We made a de­ci­sion three years ago that we wouldn’t ever white la­bel again. It was a very clear de­ci­sion be­cause of two things: if no one ever knows we’ve done the job, then we can hide be­hind some­one else and just be good enough. We didn’t want that. We are proud of the work we do and want to stand by it.

“Home won nine awards, which we’re su­per proud of and we got Tim Peake to try it, be­cause it’s based on his ex­pe­ri­ences. He was very com­pli­men­tary about it; he said it was bet­ter than the sim­u­la­tor in Hous­ton and would be per­fect for train­ing.

“We never set out to win awards. We wanted to do some­thing we en­joyed and the au­di­ences would en­joy, we wanted to push our­selves and

We made a de­ci­sion we wouldn’t ever white la­bel again… we are proud of the work we do and stand by it Solomon Rogers, rewind Ceo and founder

VR, and the BBC al­lowed us to col­lab­o­rate in that way. The ‘push­ing bound­aries’ men­tal­ity runs through­out the com­pany. The projects I bring in have to keep the team en­gaged, so by hook or by crook we’re al­ways do­ing some­thing ex­per­i­men­tal or some­thing we’ve never done be­fore, so it keeps us on the same path. If I brought in some­thing that any­one else could do, they’d all get switched off!”

The work that’s come into the busi­ness has shifted sig­nif­i­cantly since the early days, too. REWIND has suc­cess­fully made the tran­si­tion from high-end vis­ual ef­fects, CGI and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials to cre­ative im­mer­sive tech. The change was ini­tially chal­leng­ing but ex­cit­ing at the same time. “I re­alised we had a great drive for the strange and the won­der­ful, the cre­ative tech­nol­ogy and the ex­pe­ri­en­tial.,” says Rogers. “We moved swiftly into a place that al­lowed us to play with tech, an­i­ma­tion, sto­ry­telling. Our cu­rios­ity and abil­ity drove us for­ward.”

The trans­for­ma­tion hasn’t just been with the type of work taken, but in the type of clients and at­ti­tudes com­ing into REWIND: “We started out with lots of PR agen­cies, then they be­came mar­ket­ing agen­cies and now they’re Hol­ly­wood stu­dios and global brands.”

And a con­se­quence of this im­proved un­der­stand­ing of the type of work from clients and a big­ger va­ri­ety of projects, is a whole new way of dis­cussing

VR, as Rogers ex­plains;

“We’ve had to find a new lex­i­con to ex­plain the things we make! We start pulling film words, game words, we’re still fig­ur­ing things out. It’s get­ting bet­ter! But we get peo­ple call­ing us ask­ing ‘I’d like a VR please!’ and we ask them ‘What do you mean you’d like a VR?! Do you mean 360 video? Stereo? Fully im­mer­sive? In­ter­ac­tive? Room scale? In­stal­la­tions?’ There are so many dif­fer­ent flavours. But luck­ily peo­ple are be­gin­ning to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

This grad­ual com­pre­hen­sion has led to ex­cit­ing projects, in­clud­ing an in­cred­i­ble so­cial VR event, link­ing 66 head­sets across con­ti­nents for Jaguar’s I-PACE con­cept launch. Guests were trans­ported to a vir­tual space where they could en­joy the sleek in­te­ri­ors of the Jaguar I-PACE Con­cept with a 360-de­gree view of Venice Beach. “It was phe­nom­e­nal,” says Rogers. “The net­work struc­ture, high-end CGI, de­liv­ered glob­ally, a PR event that had to hap­pen when the screen went up: it was a live event run­ning like a theatre piece. There were so many mov­ing parts. It was one of our proud­est mo­ments, let alone run­ning it five times, and it worked 100 per cent ev­ery time.

“We had the de­sign­ers in the stu­dio mid-way through the project. We put them in a head­set,

put them in­side the ve­hi­cle. We were wor­ried, that as ex­perts in how the car should look, they would find fault. But some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pened. They started lean­ing around and talk­ing, point­ing and said ‘You see this, I think we should change this’ they were hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about the de­sign of the in­te­rior be­cause the VR rep­re­sen­ta­tion made it easy for them to ex­plore it in de­tail. The im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence al­lowed them to eval­u­ate their de­sign de­ci­sions. VR is in­cred­i­bly use­ful in aid­ing the de­sign process; many in­dus­tries al­ready use it as stan­dard prac­tice.”

In terms of soft­ware, REWIND has also been happy to open it­self up to new tools where they’ve been shown to im­prove the com­pany’s pipe­line; “We’re very flex­i­ble due to our size and the di­verse range of skills we have in-house,” ex­plains Rogers. “We have Un­real and Unity de­vel­op­ers, 3ds Max and Maya ex­perts, Zbrush and Mud­box peo­ple.

“If we were just a VR com­pany, VR would be the an­swer to ev­ery­thing. But we tell sto­ries through cre­ative tech­nol­ogy, so maybe it’s VR, AR or MR – we find the right so­lu­tion based on the brief. We are hard­ware and soft­ware ag­nos­tic. We are at an amaz­ing time in which cre­ativ­ity is un­bounded – if you can think it, we can make it.”

Un­sur­pris­ingly for such a vi­brant and cre­ative com­pany, it’s the ac­tual craft of can­di­dates ap­ply­ing at REWIND that is more im­por­tant to Rogers than which soft­ware or tool they can use; “I just want to hire good peo­ple. We are al­ways hir­ing, at se­nior and ju­nior lev­els. We have a grad­u­ate re­cruit­ment scheme, so we bring on three to six in­terns over the sum­mer and we are al­ways look­ing for high-qual­ity grad­u­ates to join us on the jour­ney.”

With 50 peo­ple in the of­fice, and with this de­sire to hire many more, REWIND is evolv­ing to be­come a more mod­ern type of stu­dio – with Rogers favour­ing a new cre­ative ap­proach to de­scrib­ing it­self: “I of­ten call us a vil­lage or a tribe – cer­tain mind­sets pulling to­gether to cre­ate some­thing ex­cit­ing, redefin­ing the use of VR, AR and MR. We’re al­ways chang­ing, we’ve al­most dou­bled ev­ery year to pull more tal­ent into the busi­ness.”

REWIND’S projects are be­ing driven by growth and with a San Fran­cisco of­fice hav­ing just opened up, its con­nec­tions with Hol­ly­wood are get­ting ever stronger; “You’ll see the fruits of that labour com­ing out in the next year or so,” says Rogers. “We’re also work­ing with high-end TV so HBO with Sil­i­con Val­ley, and the BBC and oth­ers like that. You’ll see a cou­ple of re­ally high-pro­file projects this sum­mer as well, which are go­ing to be amaz­ing.”

With all of this de­vel­op­ment taking place, just what is it that drives Rogers, and keeps him ex­cited about wak­ing up to work at REWIND ev­ery day? It’s all about the peo­ple and the jour­ney: “I get to work with my best friends.

[And as] a CEO I feel like I’m con­tin­u­ously solv­ing a Ru­bik’s Cube. The chal­lenges of cre­at­ing a com­pany that can de­liver di­verse work in an ever-chang­ing world is a con­tin­u­ously chang­ing goal that I’m re­ally ex­cited about. With the en­ergy and the wind be­hind us, the op­tions of where we want to go next, we’re choos­ing our own des­tiny, and we are cre­at­ing the fu­ture. That’s what’s get­ting me up in the morn­ing – this thing is never go­ing to get solved, but I’m lov­ing the chal­lenge and the path we’re go­ing on.”

I of­ten call us a vil­lage or a tribe – mind­sets pulling to­gether to cre­ate some­thing ex­cit­ing

rewind’s work ranges from Ar/ Vr and Mr to 360 video and in­stal­la­tions

for the Jaguar I-PACE, rewind cre­ated a so­cial Vr ex­pe­ri­ence The Jaguar I-PACE ex­pe­ri­ence was a cross-global multi-user event

rewind’s stu­dio is based in St Al­bans, UK. The cre­ative tech­nol­o­gists launched a se­cond of­fice in the US to cater to clients in hol­ly­wood and be­yond

Ghost In The Shell takes you in­side of The Ma­jor’s world

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