Final month at San Diego Comedian Con, I fulfilled my childhood (and let’s be trustworthy, present) dream of stepping inside a NickToon. In Nickelodeon Leisure Lab’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VR Interview Experience, I interacted with turtles Mikey and Donnie—voiced reside by sequence expertise, Brandon Mychal Smith and Josh Brener, respectively.
I stood in opposition to a inexperienced display, chosen an avatar (I selected Arnold from Hey Arnold!), placed on an Oculus Rift headset, and was transported onto a New York Metropolis rooftop. I inhabited a 3D type, however as I regarded forward, I noticed two 2D turtles. I interviewed the characters in actual time, and their actions completely corresponded to their solutions–there was no discernable lag.
On condition that AI isn’t in a position to match the conversational pace and nimbleness of actual people simply but, corporations like Oculus are experimenting with utilizing live actors of their VR experiences to approximate in-person interactions. Nevertheless, this was the primary time I’ve skilled a reside melding of 3D and 2D worlds in VR.
Behind the scenes, this “magic” was made doable by 4 computer systems, two puppeteers, two voice actors and a workforce of eight individuals working the varied stations. (The crew have been all carrying ninja bandanas, naturally). Adobe Character Animator, Epic Unreal Engine, and NewTeK NDI have been all used to create the interview expertise. The pièce de résistance was the intense purple keyboard that was piloted by two workforce members (one for every turtle). Every key featured a unique animated pose, and so the actions of the turtles could possibly be “animated” in actual time, akin to enjoying an emblem piano.
In keeping with Chris Younger, SVP of the Leisure Lab, the impetus of the activation was that his workforce was in search of an progressive manner to assist socialize Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at SDCC and they also got here up with the thought of a VR press junket.
The Leisure Lab has been exploring all facets of digital cinema pipelines with animated characters; utilizing full physique and facial efficiency seize, and doing real-time playback in recreation engines. Per Chris: “Whether or not it’s streaming reside performances into digital experiences or recorded for a extra conventional linear output, these strategies create one other software that we are able to use to create compelling content material for our viewers.”
Even with out the bandanas, the workforce had nice synergy: “The perfect half about my workforce is that everybody brings a unique experience. From artists to engineers, the mix of abilities and background made this creatively and technically doable” mentioned Chris.
Though I teased the turtles for being “flat” in my interview, I really like that this inventive alternative was made. It might have been unsettling to instantly see what’s 2D in 3D.
For instance, I benefit from the premise and plot of Virtual Rick-Ality, however one in every of my essential criticisms of the sport is the connection between belongings. Rick and Morty the animated sequence is 2D, however the recreation makes them into bulbous characters. This disconnect is off-putting and hurts the immersion of the sport.
Though the VR Interview Expertise was created particularly for Comedian-Con and Nickelodeon doesn’t presently have plans to launch a model to the general public, they’re toying round with different activations for followers.
Nevertheless, VR isn’t the place exploration ends for Nickelodeon, they’re additionally dabbling in AR. Nick’s new SCREENS UP initiative, first launched on the Nickelodeon Children Alternative Sports activities Awards, permits viewers to carry their cell gadgets (or extra probably, mum or dad’s cell gadgets) as much as the display whereas watching to disclose hidden AR content material.
This app-driven TV and cell expertise is likely one of the first within the U.S. designed for teenagers and households. Anticipate to see extra hybrids like this sooner or later, because it encourages the watching of reside TV in addition to app downloads; two fascinating outcomes for tv content material suppliers.
General, the most effective a part of my Ninja Turtles Comedian Con demo was how foolish and good-natured all of it was. With heavy headsets and an onslaught of first individual shooters, VR will be type of severe! This felt social and pleasant — the improvisational nature of the dialog allowed me to overlook I used to be in a digital area, I used to be simply hanging out with some dope turtles. It’s a credit score to Nickelodeon that they may make one thing this complicated appear to be baby’s play.
The “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Reside” digital actuality expertise was constructed fully in-house by Nickelodeon’s Leisure Lab, which spearheads long-range analysis and growth efforts round new applied sciences for Nickelodeon and its viewers. Chris Younger is the SVP of the Leisure Lab, overseeing its creation. The brand new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequence premieres September 17th on Nickelodeon.