In early 2017, Andrew and John Fragomeni joined forces with R&R Partners to bring an ambitious immersive animation project called “Vegas: Alter Your Reality” (VAYR) to life. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) commissioned five world-renowned artists to express their visions of the city in each of their unique styles, to create a traveling art installation where the art is all experienced inside a VR headset. Adhemas Batista (Brazil), Beeple (U.S.), Fafi (France), INSA (U.K.), and Signalnoise (Canada) collaborated directly with a team of designers, animators, and technicians brought together and led by John and Andrew in a creative studio purpose-built to craft these five 360º experiences.
Andrew served as the creative lead / VR Director for these films, guiding the process of converting each artist’s concept and style into a 360º immersive video. This project leaned heavily on his expertise in filmmaking, animation, VR, VFX, and even software development; a cross-disciplinary gauntlet of creative and technical challenges that required solutions from multiple mediums. VAYR is a deep collaboration between artists, creatives, and technicians, and Andrew provided the intersection point for all parties to come together and work effectively towards the common goal of creating immersive art to honor the sights, sounds, and sensations of Las Vegas.
At the start of the project, each artist traveled to Las Vegas to be introduced to creating art in VR and to experience the city on their own terms. From there they collaborated with R&R’s creatives and Andrew and John to brainstorm, develop narratives, storyboard, and to create mood boards for their artistic interpretations of Vegas. Once their story and vision was refined, the artists created style frames and 2D assets to be dimensionalized and brought to life by the production team.
Over the span of four months, this team created 3D environments, characters, and visual effects in the style of each of the featured artists – turning their visions into fully immersive stereo 360º videos. This relatively small group of veteran designers and animators created a staggering variety of elements – rendering over 2,000,000 frames of stereo 360º video and using almost every single 2D and 3D technique available. From character animations, to particle, fluid, and rigid body simulations, these LA-based creatives generated over 45TB of data as they pushed the bar ever higher to do justice to each artist’s vision. The final pieces totalled over 12.5 minutes of final CG animation, all in stereo at 4k resolution.
In order to accomplish this highly ambitious project, the production team partnered closely with Maxon, Otoy, Mettle, Blackmagic, Side Effects, and NextLimit to leverage beta features of their software and to have direct engineering support to refine the software’s 360º capabilities. A special shout-out also goes to NVIDIA and their TitanXP cards – this project used 68 of these behemoths and there is zero doubt that these films could have completed in time without them. In addition to these partners, the team created 3D models in Maya and Z-Brush and relied on Adobe‘s Photoshop and Illustrator to generate assets, After Effects for element generation and some compositing, and Premiere for WIP edit reviews. X-Particles for C4D features heavily in many of the films, GoPro’s VR Viewer was often used for review in headsets, and the team even used Unity to create some 2D smoke elements for Batista. Each program was leveraged for its specific capabilities in a 360º stereo environment, and moving data and imagery between packages required daily creative problem solving.
At the end of production, Andrew and John worked with R&R to develop a bespoke app to play these five experiences back on GearVR headsets for the world premiere in Miami during the annual Art Basel creative festival. The “Vegas: Alter Your Reality” activation involved a total takeover of the Zadok gallery in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District, with each artist’s work viewed on VR headsets in a room customized to match the style and themes of their piece. The app created for this event allowed for maximum quality playback and a foolproof viewing experience by disabling the GearVR’s normal inputs and leaving control in the hands of the docents attending each room. Similar in scope to the GearVR app created for Comic Con 2015’s The Strain VR, this was a resounding success, flawlessly serving thousands of viewers across 50 headsets for 4 days
In 2018 you can expect to see this one-of-a-kind art experience in various cities around the world, with plans to visit each artist’s country and to bring this unique form of animated art to events that focus on art, performance, fashion, and entertainment.
Here is some of the press on the project, and the opening event during Art Week in Miami:
- Las Vegas virtual reality art exhibit debuts at Miami Art Week
- KTNV morning show segment about the project and the Art Basel opening
- VR Gains a Foothold in Destination Marketing During Miami Art Week
- Reimagining Las Vegas in a Virtual Playground: Global artists collaborate on ‘Vegas: Alter Your Reality’ VR experience
- Q&A: The evolving workflows of VR creation and production
- Art Basel 2017: These virtual-reality exhibits will show you ‘crazy things’
- Miami Art Basel Getting A Dose of Vegas Reality
- Vegas: Alter Your Reality VR Art Collection Debuting At Miami Art Week
- Las Vegas to Debut Never-Before-Seen Virtual Reality Art Collection During Miami Art Week