Inside Christopher Nolan's Interstellar: The Virtual Reality Experience

Written by Mark Ramshaw

Framestore / RedShark NewsInterstellar Virtual Reality Experience

After doing more than any other movie industry figure to legitimise the superhero genre, writer-director Christopher Nolan has left the Bat gadgets behind and turned his attention to environmentalism, space travel and wormholes with Interstellar. In anticipation of its arrival, Framestore is giving cinemagoers an opportunity to (virtually) experience space travel first-hand.

With industry buzz already placing it alongside 2001: A Space Odyssey, Chris Nolan's new movie Interstellar looks well-placed to storm the box office first and then the awards season shortly after. That's pretty impressive for a movie whose plot still remains firmly under wraps, though internet rumours suggest an intellectually-challenging script that combines hard sci-fi, time travel and Memento-style storytelling trickiness. This would certainly make sense given the involvement of noted theoretical physicist Kip Thorne.

Adding to the publicity drip-feed is a touring virtual reality experience, developed for Paramount Pictures by the Oscar-winning creative and VFX studio Framestore, or more specifically, its recently-launched VR division. Created using the Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 and the Unreal 4 real-time 3D engine, the Interstellar Experience aims to give participants a serene taste of space exploration aboard the movie's signature space craft, the Endurance. Sitting back in an armchair chair and donning VR headset and headphones, they're immersed in a painstakingly modelled and rendered recreation of the cockpit and networked areas of the ship, experiencing a guided tour that leads them – in virtual zero gravity – through the environment, with objects floating by, both inside the craft and out in space.

There is a certain irony to the creation of a fully CG experience in support of Interstellar, given that the director's preference is for physical rather than digital effects (the out-of-cockpit views in the film itself were apparently backprojected on set, rather than added to greenscreen in postproduction, in order to better immerse the actors), but Nolan himself has donned the headset for a virtual tour, proclaiming: "I was impressed with how the experience is able to put you in the cockpit of Interstellar's spaceship, the Endurance. It was just like being back on set."

interstellar experience 1

The Interstellar Experience has already visited New York and Houston, and is set to touch down in Los Angeles at the AMC City Walk (from October 25th to the 27th) and then the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (from November 5th to the 19th). No word yet on whether the experience might make it to Europe. The movie itself gets a worldwide release on November 5th, with showings in IMAX 70mm, 70mm, IMAX, and 35mm formats, then standard digital and 4K digital screenings to follow two days later.

RedShark News previously reported on 'Interstellar' and the fact the sci-fi epic was shot on film. You can find that article HERE. And don't miss a detailed explanation of Christopher Nolan's technical approach to film formats on Page Two!


Christopher Nolan's Technical Approach to Film Formats

(reprinted from the film's promotional site interstellarmovie.com)

INTERSTELLAR was shot using a combination of 35mm anamorphic film and 65mm 15 perf IMAX FILM. When presented on 70mm IMAX, the sequences shot on IMAX are printed full quality in their native format- the highest quality imaging format ever devised, offering almost ten times the resolution of standard formats, and filling the giant IMAX screens from top to bottom. The 35mm anamorphic sequences have been blown up to fill the IMAX screen side-to-side using a 6k digital DMR process, the highest resolution processing ever used in a feature film presentation. The finished picture switches between the 2.40:1 and 1.43:1 aspect ratios at key dramatic moments in the film. This is combined with a specially made IMAX uncompressed sound mix for the most immersive presentation of the film.

The digital IMAX presentation has been created from 6 and 8k scans of the original film elements, graded specifically for the high contrast IMAX dual-projection system. When presented on digital IMAX, the sequences shot on IMAX will fill the IMAX screens from top to bottom and switch from 2.40:1 to an aspect ratio of up to 1.9:1. It will also carry the uncompressed IMAX sound mix of the film.

When presented on regular 70mm film, the IMAX sequences have been optically reduced to 70mm 5 perf film to produce a grain-free, ultra-high resolution image, cropped top and bottom to fill the wide screen. The 35mm anamorphic sections have been blown up optically. Both processes are photochemical, preserving the original analog color of the imagery and combined in a 2.2:1 widescreen presentation. The sound is carried on a separate Datasat disc to produce state-of-the-art 6-track digital sound.

The 35mm anamorphic prints have been made photochemically, preserving all the rich analog color and high resolution of the original 35mm anamorphic photography. This is combined with new 4k negatives produced from 8k scans of the IMAX original negatives, cropped top and bottom to create a seamless 2.40:1 scope image. The sound is coded on the prints in Dolby SRD for a 6-track digital playback experience in most theatres.

The digital presentation of INTERSTELLAR has been created from 4 and 8k scans of the photochemically- color graded film elements, fine-tuned in the digital realm to maximize the color and contrast attributes of digital projectors, and dust-busted to achieve the cleanest and most stable image presentation possible. The film was mastered in 4k for the highest digital resolution currently available.

The sound on INTERSTELLAR has been specially mixed to maximize the power of the low end frequencies in the main channels as well as in the sub woofer channel. This effect is present is in all available presentations of INTERSTELLAR, all of which have been designed to play back at the volume level designated by the industry at 7 on the Dolby cinema processor.

Tags: VR & AR

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