Felix & Paul Studios have been innovating on their own immersive VR camera technology since they pioneered the first-ever stereoscopic VR video with Strangers with Patrick Watson. They went on to sign a deal with Oculus Studios to produce a number of different 360 videos including the Introduction to Virtual Reality and a series of anthropological documentaries with Nomads.
I had a chance to catch up with Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël at Oculus Connect 3, where they were debuting their third VR collaboration with Cirque du Soleil with KÀ: The Battle Within, which features some of the most mind-bending, physics-based acrobatic choreography that I’ve ever seen. They continue to innovate with their camera technology to do things that other camera systems cannot, including maintaining decent stereoscopic effects within the near-field, better dynamic range and control over the framerate. In their Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks VR experience, they adapted their camera so that it could capture some awe-inspiring, time-lapse sequences at Yosemite National Park.
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They talked to me about their process of cultivating presence through treating the viewer as a character within the scene, paying attention to camera height, and having long and slow cuts that allow you to really sink into a location. Félix told me that their overarching philosophy is that “everything we do is experiential.” They’re not trying to direct attention, but rather provide many interesting opportunities for you to pay attention to a number of different unfolding processes within any given scene. This is something that André Lauzon told me they always do in Cirque du Soleil productions, and so it’s a natural fit to translate this type of live performance experience into VR. Felix & Paul are always focusing on cultivating that sense of presence and creating an experience whether it’s a branded advertisement for Jurassic World, a documentary about LeBron James pre-season training, or a 40-minute scripted comedy MIYUBI that’s premiering at Sundance 2017.
The quality and caliber of presence that Félix & Paul are able to cultivate within a 360-video is way beyond what I’ve seen anyone else doing within the 360 video space. A big part of it has to do with their camera technology innovations, but it’s also because they have a creative philosophy that involves deeply listening to the unique affordances of the VR medium. Their continued innovation in the space is a big reason why Twentieth Century Fox and The Fox Innovation Lab have partnered with Felix and Paul Studios to develop VR experiences that are based upon Fox IP. Based upon my previous conversation with 20th Century Fox Futurist Ted Schilowitz and what they did with The Martian VR experience, then I expect that they’re going to be treating VR as more than just advertisements for movies, but rather explore how to create VR experiences that stand on their own. Felix and Paul are premiering the longest VR scripted content to date at Sundance in January with MIYUBI, and their VR-specific adaptions of Cirque du Soleil performances and camera technology has proven that their some of the biggest innovators who are dedicated to evolving the language of storytelling within VR.
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