FX’s “The Strain” spreads even further with the help of a VR experience

by Matthew Terndrup • October 29th, 2015

Vampires killing innocent people and the battle against them is a common narrative that comes up a lot in pop culture. A new take on the familiar, blood-sucking storyline has now sparked a virtual reality experience stemming from a trilogy of horror novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

After gaining popularity, the books turned into a TV series. From there, Mirada, a production studio in Marina del Ray, partnered with a content creation company called Headcase and a digital ad agency named Digital Kitchen to film a virtual reality experience for the show. They unveiled that short experience at Comic Con 2015, frightening the masses while simultaneously tapping into an internal fear of civilization succumbing to a vampire infection.

Mirada facilitated the VR pipeline for the project and worked closely with Headcase from the start of pre-production. Live action was captured using a cinema-grade spherical camera rig developed by Headcase. Mirada stitched the multi camera footage together into 360 degree scenes that were sent back to Headcase for editorial.

A unique 360 degree camera captured the scenes for The Strain's VR demo

A unique 360 degree camera captured the scenes for The Strain’s VR demo

The outbreak of The Strain’s terrible disease was first reported on a Boeing 777, according to the narrative. Everyone on the plane died, except for four people who were covered in a biological substance only seen under UV light, causing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look into the incident. As they quarantined the  survivors, symptoms of an unknown virus started kicking in. Soon, parasitic worms slithered around their organs, turning them into blood thirsty monsters.

I tried out the VR demo recently, and it is an exhilarating ride into the world of FX’s “The Strain.” It begins in an abandoned warehouse with a sense of death and decay around every corner.  The main character, Vasiliy Fet, hectically led me through the darkness as Strigoi, zombie-like vampires, ran towards us. He slashed at them wildly as my heartbeat increased with each step.

One of the creatures quickly approached in an effort to attack. With a swift motion, Vasiliy Fet hacked into the head of the beast, causing a white goo to burst from the skull. Lucky to be alive, we scurried further into the darkness when another vampire lunged in front of me. It shot its blood-sucking appendage at me, latching onto my body. I manage to get away, but my guide through this ominous environment informs me that it’s too late. The transformation had already begun.

The Strigoi are vicious creatures [image source]

The Strigoi in FX’s The Strain are vicious creatures [image source]

The virtual reality experience is thrilling, but the real magic from the demo lies in the syncing of the Gear VR headsets that Mirada utilized for the Comic Con 2015 attendees. Inside an actual warehouse dubbed the FX Fearless Arena, groups of six people would enter the themepark-esque attraction to view the horror film together. Rather that putting individuals in one by one, the synchronization allowed for more people to experience it at once, providing a social aspect to it.

The app that we made to play back the video and audio (and to do the realtime image effects) also had the ability to receive a start/stop and reset signal wirelessly. There was a single computer acting as the master show control that sent a start signal to all headsets, and then ran the rumble packs in sync with them. There was no communication between headsets, only between each headset and the show control. – Andrew Cochrane, New Media Director at Mirada Studios

Mirada is currently among the few companies out there that can synchronize Gear VR headsets together, giving them an advantage when securing potential clients. On a purely practical level, as interest in virtual reality increases, syncing virtual reality experiences is an beautiful and powerful tool for those involved with marketing events like Comic Con. Pairing that with a popular television series like The Strain, puts VR further into the mainstream; making this a winning combination.

The Strain’s VR demo is expected to venture out into the public again in the future, although there are no confirmed dates/events at this time. So, stay tuned for more details.

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