Revelator’s Chetty launches VR “Mars” for Washington Post

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The project can be viewed on the web or in 3D on a desktop through a headset like Oculus Rift. If you don’t want to strap on the Oculus right away, you can watch Deepak’s original brief animatic for the project.

The future has finally arrived. The new release of the Oculus Rift allows regular ‘ol folks like us to experience virtual reality. Our very own Deepak Chetty had the opportunity to help create another VR experience for the Washington Post, and this time it takes users to the surface of Mars. As a creative producer and consultant on the project, he worked directly with The Washington Post and the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication to create the innovative and immersive piece. Want to check it out? You can access it via The Washington Post’s website.

The original idea for the project began with a desire to create an interactive experience that would accompany a written piece, and could be released across multiple VR and Immersive Media platforms. During initial meetings, the idea of visiting the surface of Mars had been thrown around. At the end of the brainstorming process, it was decided that one of the journalists at the Post could write an accompanying piece on the past, present and future of space travel. The first thing to be locked down was the question of the overall experience itself. How would it function? What would the level of interactivity be? For the first step, Deepak created the above animatic of Mars within Adobe After Effects. Data from NASA’s website also aided in illustrating how the user experience might work.

After the animatic was created and approved as the blueprint for the project, Deepak worked alongside Cameron Blake, who handles VR and Immersive Media content creation at The Washington Post. Together, they brought the animatic to life. They also called upon the talented undergraduate students at UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center for scripting and optimization help.

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Screen Capture From VR Experience

To begin with, Deepak created a series of 360 degree video animations that would take the viewer from low orbit over Mars, to the surface of the planet. Cameron then began designing the surface, objects, and data points we wanted to highlight within the experience. Working in a journalistic environment was a fun experience for our director, who is more accustomed to creating narrative and commercial pieces. Pinpointed accuracy is a significant journalistic standard, so the team knew that verified data was key. They couldn’t just look at a bunch of images of the surface taken by one of the rovers and recreate it; the representation needed to be exact. No matter how hard they tried or how diligent they were, it would not be a 1:1 representation and therefore, not accurate. So who do you do in that situation? You call NASA.

The team reached out to NASA and were provided with a topographical 3D model of the surface, which was created using NASA’s elaborate collection of data. The content was then dropped into Unity3D, a game engine used to create VR experiences. Cameron worked out where all the data points would be, and what information would be gathered through them. The team then began optimizing and creating the control schemes for the user. This included an onsite visit to Washington D.C, which helped move the project toward completion. After multiple revisions and optimizations, the project was ready for sponsors. The finished project can be viewed though the web (a much lower resolution version) or in 3D on a desktop through a headset like Oculus Rift.

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Screen Capture From VR Experience

We here at Revelator think this project serves as a prime example of how VR can be used to enhance a pre-existing story, much like during the late 90’s, when thumbnail image galleries started to accompany written reports. We’re heading into an age where it might not be so uncommon to see a 360 degree gallery, or an interactive VR piece as a supplement on all kinds of diverse websites. We are absolutely thrilled for the future of immersive technology, and we can’t wait to show you what we’re working on next. But for now, Revelator is honored that our very own director, Deepak Chetty, had the opportunity to play a part in making VR history on Mars.

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ABOUT REVELATOR: Revelator is a full service film & video production company in Austin, Texas. We like to write, produce, & edit projects for t.v. and the web. We specialize in brand films, corporate identity work, as well digital advertising and t.v. broadcast advertising. If you need help with your script, production, or just an idea, give us a call.

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