SyFy "Hide and Go Geek" VR Video at Comic-Con

Case Study: SyFy creates two interactive VR Videos that transport viewers into the hustle of full-throttle cosplay characters attending Emerald City Comic-Con and C2E2 Chicago.

Hide and Go Seek in 360°!

SYFY Wire set out to create a “gamified” VR video experience for their fans so they could experience an immersive and engaging VR 360 Video experience of Comic Con.  If you’ve never been to one of these before, 1000s of attendees show up in full costume regalia as pop-culture characters from comics and movies.  These “cosplay” outfits and the personalities that the most dedicated participants bring to their characters, are really a sight-to-behold–and a great experience to offer virtually through VR (if you can’t attend in person!)

The idea was to create a VR “Hide and Go Seek” experience (or for this audience “Hide and Go Geek”), where viewers can  search through the multitude of cosplay attendees for a unique character.  The production created two of these VR videos, one at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and the other for C2E2 in Chicago.

The idea: challenge viewers to explore the full 360 space

VR Videos present a new creative challenge: how to orient a viewers experience to central areas of the story being told.  There are visual and audio cues that can suggest areas of interest outside of a viewer’s view, which motivates them exploring other gaze angles onto the video.  The idea for these VR videos was to outright instruct viewers that they needed to look around, in order to find the hidden cosplay character in the scene.

The creative team discussed how to stage the hidden character so that she was hidden within the scene just enough that the viewer would enjoy the challenge, while not making the challenge so daunting that viewers would disengage. 

Testing Composition

Conducting multiple still and video test shots in VR 360 was the first step in establishing proper distance between camera and the hidden character.  As objects get too far from the VR camera they drop in resolution, making them less well defined and thus harder to identify.  During production the crew shot multiple shots so that they had editorial options to dial-up/down the difficulty of the game using more or less challenging placement of the hidden character.  Actually testing each shot in-VR was critical for evaluating the experience; simply looking at the editorial footage in Adobe Premier was very misleading and ineffective for making editorial decisions.  Hide and Go Geek had a 3x shooting ratio compared to other VR productions shot at the same event, because of this extra coverage.

Shooting with the Jump VR Camera

The pieces were shot with the Google Jump VR Camera which provided strong stereo 3D and high-resolution footage.   The camera is on the larger size and is heavier and requires a larger tri-pod.  In the crowded environment of the show-floor, with many attendees approaching the camera for a closer look, the production team had to pay special attention at all times to the safety/stability of the camera.  The camera does not film beneath itself, so the sound and camera operators were abe to tuck-under/hide beneath the camera, often answering questions of passersby.

Getting Started Instructions

The creative team added a “practice session” tutorial which leads the experience, which gives viewers a practice run of the game.  Though many viewers were likely to understand the reference to “Hide and Go Seek”, it was important to remember that for many if not most viewers, there was likely to be very little familiarity with in-headset VR video.  Design elements such as the focus ring and timer, and production choices including choosing recognizable cosplayers and ensuring a direct line of sight from the viewer to their target, were also crucial to making the experience as successful as possible.

Play  “Hide and Go Geek” C2E2

You can see how the VR video turned out by watching the embedded 360 video from youtube here.  However, this is of course much more fun and engaging in VR; to try in VR, go to Youtube VR on your VR headset, and search for SyFy Comic-Con.

Play  “Hide and Go Geek” Emerald City Comic-Con

You can see how the VR video turned out by watching the embedded 360 video from youtube here.  However, this is of course much more fun and engaging in VR; to try in VR, go to Youtube VR on your VR headset, and search for SyFy Comic-Con.