Robert Stromberg, the Oscar-winning special effects artist who is working with Steven Spielberg on an upcoming virtual reality family series, said today that when Spielberg put on a VR headset on for the first time to watch a four-minute cinematic test of the project, the famed director immediately recognized the vast potential of the VR format.
“I remember how truly excited he was when he took the headset off — it was like he was a kid again,” Stromberg recalled during his keynote speech today at the VR on the Lot conference at Paramount Pictures. “It was one of the most exciting days of my life,” said Stromberg ,who is co-founder and chief creative officer of Virtual Reality Company, the company behind the series which is now one episode into production.
“I remember mentioning that this could change the way he location scouts, for instance,” Stromberg said. “He became an advisor to the company, and we’re currently one episode into an episodic [VR] family series, which we’re really excited about.” VRC is managed by Guy Primus and Stromberg, and raised a reported $23 million from a Beijing-based company that is pushing VR into China. Some of that funding is being used for the series; Spielberg is also a shareholder in the company.
Stromberg, who crafted the VR experience for Ridley Scott’s The Martian — got his introduction to VR while working on James Cameron’s pioneering Avatar. Stressing that VR is like “a child that isn’t quite born yet,” Stromberg recalled a telling statement from Cameron on-set: “Technically, we should know what the hell we’re doing by the time we finish this thing.”
The two-day conference is examining mostly untapped potential in the cutting-edge medium. After what Stromberg referred to as a first round in VR filmmaking, there are still no guarantees for what the future holds — though the filmmaker is confident the technology will have a transformative impact across myriad industries, including entertainment. “We as a community know that if we keep pushing hard, the hardware limitations of today will quickly become a thing of the past,” he said.
Wrapping up his speech, Stromberg concluded, “I truly believe that VR will reach into all of our lives.”