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Alien Bursts Forth In VR

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As the countdown to Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated Alien: Covenant continues, Twentieth Century Fox and partners unveiled a truly terrifying addition to the Alien canon – Alien: Covenant In Utero, A Virtual Reality Experience.   The invitation-only event, held at Technicolor’s Experience Center in Culver City featured forward thinking creatives from Fox, Ridley Scott Associates, Technicolor’s MPC VR unit and others as well as multiple VR demo stations.  The 360° experience puts the viewer inside the gestation pod as the Alien Neomorph finishes developing and explodes out towards its first victim.  “We’ve always been on the receiving end (of the Alien),” says Alien: Covenant In Utero director, David Karlak, “now we get to be that creature.”  Karlak, whose acclaimed short film Rise brought him to Scott’s attention says the legendary filmmaker was heavily involved in the project from script to VR screen.  “Ridley is the original futurist,” Karlak continues, “he sees VR as an instrument of the future.”

Alien: Covenant In Utero A Virtual Reality Experience discussion panel at the launch event.

Matthais Wittmann, MPC’s VFX Supervisor pointed out the challenges of working in VR: “There were no cuts, no tricks, you have to find your way through audience expectations.  It has to look ‘film like,’ but what is film in VR?  There is no guidebook.”  The VR experience allows the viewer/participant to look anywhere – up, down, sideways and be IN the environment. And the sounds! One hears the Alien heartbeat, the host’s heartbeat and sounds from outside the womb.  Creating this was challenging to say the least: “We couldn’t rely on the movie, we had to capture the feeling of the (Alien) franchise and bring it into a POV we never had before,” says Karlak.  Roy Taylor, Corporate Vice President for VR at AMD takes it even further, “With VR, you have to create that moment and the bar is raised high in audio and video. The human visual system is good at understanding complexity and in VR you can take in the entire scene in all directions.”  He should know: AMD makes the powerful chip that powers the Alienware Area 51 gaming pc for VR.  

Alien: Covenant In Utero director, David Karlak

For the VR project’s young director, David Karlak, this is all a nightmare dream come true because, “Alien sent me on my journey as a filmmaker.”  He now has other major projects in development.  Who says a horror story can’t have a happy ending?

Alien: Covenant In Utero, A Virtual Reality Experience, launched on the Oculus platform on “Alien Day” last week and then assaults all mobile and tethered platforms like Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View, HTC Vice and PlayStation VR starting May 10. The screaming continues.

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Mark Cerulli
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