Award-winning virtual reality studio and content distributor Wevr has joined forces with Tippett Studio to create the first ever stop-motion animation VR experience, Mad God, released today for Wevr Transport on Samsung Gear VR. The project premiered at the Kaleidoscope World Tour earlier this year.
Mad God immerses its hapless viewers in a fully realized dystopia — a subterranean netherworld populated by grotesque creatures, conjured by Academy Award winning VFX legend Phil Tippett (creator of the holochess scene in Star Wars: A New Hope and the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, among other standout film moments).
The VR experience is born out of Tippett’s original stop-motion animated short of the same name. Mike Breymann of Kaleidoscope VR first approached Tippett about adapting Mad God, receiving an enthusiastic response.
“What really excited me about the whole VR experience was how different it is than cinema,” Tippett says on the Wevr production blog. “I see VR as something completely different in the way that literature and cinema have, over the years, really honed narrative storytelling to an art specific to the form. And the minute you alter the format and approach, it changes everything.”
To shoot the story, Tippett and his team repurposed the sets and miniatures from the film shoot and constructed a 360-degree set. “We replaced the sky and the ground digitally,” Tippett explains. “And then we had 20-something of these characters we call ‘the shit men.’ They’re small six-inch stop-motion characters that are made out of foam rubber with articulated skeletons and they are covered — I took cat hair from my vacuum cleaner at home and put that on their surface so every time an animator touched them it would disturb the cat hair. So the contour of the characters crawling all the time creates the kind of otherworldly distance.”
Combining this very gritty, hands-on animation aesthetic with specialized binaural audio that draws viewers around the Mad God world with sound has created a surreal and unique VR experience. Phil Tippett is, as ever, on the cutting edge of what can be achieved with elbow grease and artistic vision when it meets the technological frontier.
“I have a bunch of ideas I would like to try out,” Tippett adds. “To me it’s really exciting in the context of the whole VR medium being like the wild West, and this is the most exciting time when nobody knows jack-shit about anything.”