This installation is a rare look at the innovations in immersive entertainment being developed inside ILMxLAB—an advanced media lab and development group that is a collaboration between Lucasfilm Story Group, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. The Holo-Cinema is presented as a new scenic design and experience theatre that allows participants to step inside iconic story moments, walk around the performing characters, and explore worlds as they portal inside a fully immersive media environment. Wearing specially motion-tracked stereo viewing glasses, participants will have a 4-D viewing experience in which scenic elements and performers will appear as if moving holograms or augmented reality.
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Off Main Street here, on the third floor of a classic ski-town building, a larger-than-life C3PO loomed over guests while BB-8 scurried by.
The Sundance Film Festival is a bastion of by-your-bootstraps independent film. What were characters from the highest-grossing movie of all time doing here?
Showing off The Holo-Cinema, a new technology being developed by Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm to expand the “Star Wars” universe to the living room.
Users, wearing augmented reality glasses, can explore the Jakku desert and walk around a three-dimensional C3PO while he neurotically frets and BB-8 rolls around. The world comes into 3-D focus with the glasses on. Without them, the scene looks like an unfocused projection against the wall.
The storytelling possibilities for the technology are vast — users could eventually climb into the Millennium Falcon or poke around Rey’s junkyard.
Developed in a Lucasfilm division called the ILMxLAB — an R&D headquarters for the “Star Wars” teams — the Holo-Cinema is going to be used to drop fans into cinematic moments that need more immersion than the passive theater experience, said John Gaeta, executive creative director of new media at the lab.
In a few years, technology will have developed to the point where the projection and immersion could be experienced just by putting on a pair of augmented-reality glasses, he said. It could be accessed at theme parks installations, or by consumers in their own home.
The technology is developed with members of Lucasfilm’s story group, so the experiences feed into the overarching “Star Wars” universe being developed by the group, said Gaeta. Eventually, the form could be used to build “portals” that explore whole worlds or subplots of the “Star Wars” universe only hinted at in film, he added.
“We can put more story out there,” he said.
The Holo-Cinema and other filmmaking technology are at Sundance as part of the festival’s New Frontier programming, which highlights creative advancements in storytelling.
Gaeta expects the augmented-reality technology to be prevalent in three to five years and mainstream for all sizes of movies in five to ten years. The team isn’t beholden to “Star Wars”; they’re also developing experiences for other filmmakers, he said.
“Directors can say, ‘What is the emotional moment I want to explore?’” he said.