Iconic LIFE Brand Makes Leap Into Virtual Reality

by Charles Singletary • September 20th, 2016

Throughout the publication’s history and its transition from print to online, LIFE has been an incredible chronicle of epochal events and people through iconic photography. LIFE’s issues have captured the Spirit of Israel, chronicled the Apollo 11’s journey To The Moon and Back, and recently shown us 75 years of Film Noir. Now, LIFE is ascending into a new age with LIFE VR.

“From here on out we will be launching experiences frequently, with several more projects slated to debut later this year. As we continue to build out our capabilities in VR and simultaneously ramp up our production of 360 video across the company, the pace of new LIFE VR content will also increase,” wrote Mia Tramz, managing editor of LIFE VR, in an email. “LIFE VR is meant to be a platform for curation as well as a way to publish original material – we will be looking to distribute what is best and most interesting in VR, to give some great work wider distribution and hit perhaps an audience that couldn’t be reached otherwise.”

LIFE VR is aiming to bring a new level of immersion to TIME’s other arms such as People, Sports Illustrated, Southern Living, Essence, Real Simple, and InStyle through 360-degree videos and interactive virtual scenes that will be published monthly. The publication is focusing on the more readily available mobile VR market through iOS, Android, and a cardboard viewer but it can also be accessed on Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and HTC Vive.

“We have an aggressive editorial road map, including on site activations and more exclusive access projects planned for LIFE VR, and we’re excited to continue to experiment with this rapidly evolving medium moving forward,” Tramz wrote.

One of the debut experiences, Defying The Nazis, will allow viewers to experience a World War II rescue mission and serves as a companion to the film Defying The Nazis: The Sharps’ War. There’s also an adrenaline pumping lap of the infamous Laguna Seca track in a Mazda 787 and a stress relieving, abstract virtual luminescent forest called LUMEN. That last one was made by Framestore in partnership with Walter Greenleaf, of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

“We had to come up with ways to generate color combinations that resonated with our testers as relaxing, using concepts that are similar to how you would compose a piece of music,” Framestore executive creative director Aron Hjartarson wrote in an email. “We picked frequencies on the color wheel with harmonic intervals, so when you look at them they ‘sound’ visually like a major chord, everything fits and there’s no dissonance. And when we change colors, we’re actually moving through hue space, as opposed to turning the primary colors up and down. It’s a subtle effect, but we feel it really works well.  Traveling in hue space is very pleasant.”

A previous collection of 360-degree videos  included some features that adopted a similar style of interactive documentary: PBS took us on a tour of Gorongosa Park in Mozambique, Africa and Google teamed with World of Tanks to drop viewers into a 1941 battle reenactment.

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