Breaking away for the norm, London-based animation studio Hamilton+Kidd launched educational VR startup Curiscope earlier this year. The Kickstarter-funded brand makes challenging concepts fun to learn through engaging and full CGI immersive experiences. In its first teaser film, "Great White Sharks in 360°," participants dive into the depths of the ocean accompanied by a marine biologist, who provides educational information about the creatures down below. Available for Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and tablets, the 360° video brings viewers face-to-face with the titular predators in their natural habitat, marking the first video in a series of Curiscope immersive experiences to come.
"I love that whenever I have something new to animate, I learn more about it; I want to understand as much as I can about our world and what goes on around it," shared Hamilton+Kidd Co-founder and Curiscope COO Ben Kidd. "The more curious you are, the more fascinated you'll be about everything. We want give people this opportunity with our experiences, because we think it's a powerful tool, and our shark video is a step in the right direction."
A four-person team at Hamilton+Kidd consulted with research institutions, conducted in-depth research and referenced YouTube footage of shark behaviors prior to the video's launch, to ensure an accurate experience, paying careful attention to create a video that wouldn't intimidate viewers. "Sharks are unique in that they don't have to bite for you to feel scared; their mere presence alone is scary, so we had to be cautious in how we presented them," Kidd explained. "When their space is violated, they freak out - an effect we wanted viewers to experience without fear, and we're pleased to have accomplished that."
To bring the experience to life, Kidd and his team drew upon an extensive toolset that included Autodesk Maya 3D animation and modeling software and Adobe After Effects video and VFX software. Then, they added color to evoke the appropriate mood. "We want our work to look real more than anything, so color is really important. Without it, you can easily break the immersive experience," he said.
All of sharks and creatures in the video were created in Autodesk Maya, which will remain a crucial tool for the team as it develops new immersive experiences. "Maya has always been and remains an important part of our studio workflow; it was pivotal to this first 360° project," Kidd noted. "It's an amazing tool for motion graphics and prototyping when I find myself needing to explain something."
Even though the tools for creating immersive content versus traditional content are similar, the Hamilton+Kidd team has noticed a difference in the technique. "There are a lot more factors at play in VR; you have to be careful not to disorient the participant. With so much around them, you also don't have as much control over where you direct their attention," Kidd expressed. "A lot of the time, you'll try things only to find out they don't work; it calls for a completely new approach. You can no longer just patch things as needed."
To work through these challenges, teamwork is essential. "We're big proponents of communication and collaboration here," Kidd added. "We like to talk through how we'll start and finish a project from the very beginning, and carry on regular conversations about the best ways to approach problems."
Following the success of its 360° shark video, Hamilton+Kidd debuted its latest Curiscope experience
Virtuali-Tee. The video lets viewers explore the anatomy of the human body, allowing them to move in and around an x-ray of a body wearing a t-shirt. As the brand continues to promote its work, it has ambitious plans for the business, looking to immersive technology as a groundbreaking tool that can change the way students learn in schools.