Inside the xLAB, a virtual-reality test kitchen
To develop Star Wars and Jurassic World in VR, INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC has formed a supergroup
Standing on the desert surface of Tatooine, you instinctively duck as the Millennium Falcon swoops in for a thunderous and dramatic landing beside you. Through the lenses of your virtual-reality headset, Han Solo’s starship looks real. That’s because it is—in the sense that it’s rendered exactly as it appears in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, it’s the star of Trials on Tatooine, a first-person virtual-reality experience created by Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (xLAB), a supergroup of artists, engineers, sound designers, and storytellers building the future of interactive, immersive cinema. “We’ve assembled an extraordinary group of dreamers and rocket builders,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, the executive in charge of the lab. “The dreamers are constantly thinking about what’s possible, and the rocket builders figure out how to get us there.”
When Rob Bredow, chief technology officer of ILM’s parent company, Lucasfilm, and his co-writer on Trials on Tatooine, Pablo Hidalgo, envisioned the Millennium Falcon “landing on your head,” the xLAB engineers had to customize the game engine so the massive 3D model could render fast enough for a dynamic and smooth virtual experience. Meanwhile, Skywalker Sound, an audio design company, built a surround system that rumbles like the Corellian freighter reputed to have made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. “The way we do technology development here is really hand-in-hand with the creative goals,” says Bredow. “The R&D is always in service to the story.”
● John Gaeta, executive creative director, won an Academy Award for The Matrix, for which he designed effects like “bullet time,” an extreme visual transformation of time to show what’s otherwise unfilmable, such as a flying bullet. ● Bredow ● Dobbs...