Star Wars VR Experience - A New Platform for Creativity.


from our First Year correspondent, Ryan Orgill



When it comes to the big blockbuster films like 'The Avengers' and 'Jurassic Park' you might wonder, who is behind those amazing visuals? The answer is simple: ILM  otherwise known as Industrial Light & Magic. That’s who!

From 'Star Wars' series, 'The Abyss' all the way to the MCU, ILM is responsible in bringing all these amazing special effects to life. But now ILM has teamed up with its partners Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound to Create ILMxLAB. They're looking into VR (Virtual Reality) technology to find new ways of telling and creating stories in more immersive ways.

Thanks to the Animation & Visual Effects course at Falmouth University I was invited by ILM London to the European Star Wars celebration in London. Here I got the chance to join ILMxLAB as a volunteer to help  show off their latest demo in VR technology in 'The Trails of Tatooine' powered by Steam and the HTC vive.. I also got the chance to try the game for myself and talk to a few technicians behind it.

Our correspondent Ryan is in there somewhere. A prize to the person who spots him first!

The Experience is amazing. I was completely immersed on the deserts of Tatooine: repairing the Millennium Falcon, interacting with R2 D2 and then having the chance to use the iconic Star Wars weapon of choice, the 'Lightsaber' against Stormtrooper blaster fire.  This was incredible. After trying the experience for myself I joined the other volunteers helping to manage the demo getting the public kitted out with the HTC vive head gear and hand controller. Seeing people’s reaction when jumped in to the VR world and use a Lightsaber for the first time was priceless. The atmosphere was awesome.

While working with the VR kit I got the chance to talk to some of the technicians. I asked them what it was like working for ILMxLAB and with projects like this. One said: 

"...it's awesome working on projects like this, as it’s not just technicians you're working with, you’re also working with Lucasfilm and their artists, and storyboard artists that produce amazing concert art and ideas, as well as sound engineers from Skywalker sound to create something new and exciting"

Another went on to say:

"That the applications for this technology are still an ongoing experiment and that it’s interesting where they can take digital interaction".

One example of this was that similar techniques used to create the 'Trails of Tatooine' are also used on the up-coming 'Star Wars - Rogue One'.  These techniques allowed the studio to create a virtual version of a set used in the film allowing the director to move and change elements of the set in 3D space. This allowed them to fix problems before constructing it in real life. Hearing about all of this has got me really excited about the future of VR and I cant wait to see where ILM will take it.

Working at the celebration has been an amazing opportunity for me. I’ve met some great people who not only have a love for Star Wars, but  also have a desire to tell great stories. With ILMxLAB and other companies spearheading new techniques and developing approaches to storytelling in new and interactive ways it’s a really exciting time to be working and studying in the creative industry. 

Ryan Orgill. First Year Animation & Visual Effects Undergraduate
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Falmouth at the Rebel Unit 2016

Falmouth graduates make an impact at Rebel Unit.

On a balmy summer evening in July ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) opened it's doors to a select and small number of Animation & Visual Effects courses from all over Europe to their Rebel Unit 2016 Graduate Event.

And we're proud to say that Falmouth was one of those lucky enough to get a golden ticket! 2016 graduate Rachel Denton flew the flag for Falmouth only to be met by fellow graduate Ben Langham who had already bagged himself a job with the visual effects giant.



An evening in a nutshell
Meeting & greeting - where else? At the bar...


The evening kicked off at the swanky Soho boutique hotel 'The Ham Yard' with a meet and greet - an opportunity for everyone there to chat with fellow graduates as well as a whole host of visual effects artists and supervisors. The ILM team were most welcoming and chatting to them was inspiring.

David Vickery, Visual Effects Supervisor & Sue Lyster, Director of Studio Operations


A short introduction from David & Sue (above) gave the audience a fascinating insight to the work created by ILM London as well as the company overall. From the early days of Star Wars through to the latest Avengers films everything was on show. Quite simply amazing! Their introduction was light-hearted and inviting and gave a really clear impression of the studio - it's relaxed, fun and professional and that's how they create such great work.

Immediately after their talk the graduates were invited to their interviews. And Rachel was one of those up first. I met up with her immediately afterwards and she told me how it went. Rachel had been interviewed by Sue and was interested to know about Rachel's work, her time at Falmouth and was impressed by the grounding that we give our students in the whole range of things that are needed to bring something to the screen. We also had a chat with David Vickery who echoed Sue's thoughts. He was also impressed with the fact that the course aims to replicate industry pipelines and processes with team working at it's heart.

Visual Effects Supervisor, Roger Guyett

Spellbinding!

The highlight of the evening was the talk given by legendary Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett. His CV is quite simply a role call of the best films that have graced the silver screen. Not only was Roger the 2nd Unit Director on 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens', but has been responsible for supervising on Pirates of the Caribbean 'At Worlds End' and 'Dead Man's Chest', Mission Impossible 3, Star Wars 'Revenge of the Sith', two of the Harry Potter films amongst many many others. We were taken behind the scenes of 'The Force Awakens' and shown clips never publicly seen before. We saw how whole scenes were created, with storyboards through to wire frames, test renders all the way through to the final shots. His story of the evolution of the little BB8 was insightful and amusing as we were shown the character develop from one of JJ Abram's scribbled sketches through to experiments with puppets and mo-cap to some of the CG models.

Roger chatted for about an hour before we went to a short Q&A session. The first question was "Can you talk for another hour please?" and everyone agreed. I for one could have sat and listened all evening to his stories and an hour was not enough. But as they say, best go out leaving your audience asking for more! For super-fans like myself and Rachel this was a night long to be remembered!



It was an immensely success event and the first of many more we hope. We are proud to have been selected to be there and we are now looking at ways in which ILM London and Falmouth Animation & Visual Effects can work together in the future.

The event also follows on from the successful ILM London 'Star Wars Celebration' earlier in the summer where first year Animation & Visual Effects student Ryan Orgill was invited to come and work with the company for the day. In Ryan's own words it was "awesome and one off the best experiences of my life so far".
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