"We created the first musical in mixed reality" - Thibault Mathieu (Wilkins Avenue)
Previously Head of Creative Innovation at Webedia (France), he is now entirely dedicated to creative and immersive experiences where storytelling is king. With his new company Wilkins Avenue, he has just presented at Comic Con Paris OUT THERE, a musical comedy project with Vanessa Williams composed by Pollen Music Group ... for Magic Leap!
Going into creative MR: OUT THERE
Thibault Mathieu - After several professional experiences, I created Wilkins Avenue with the desire to offer new immersive experiences for brands and the general public, focused on creativity. Our first experience came out this fall and is called OUT THERE: it is the first artistic - mixed reality project produced for Magic Leap in France, and the world's first truly immersive musical in Spatial Computing. I’ve been testing the headset for some time, and beyond industry applications I quickly saw its possibilities for entertainment. At Comic Con Paris we acquired real feedback, and operational experience since we welcomed 600 people in 3 days! OUT THERE has become the biggest LBE experience for Magic Leap in the world.
T. M. - The event went very well, and it was the emotion of the audience which surprised us. I really think you can reach people in a whole new way with MR, including playing physically with the set or giving sensations of physically moving within a song. We were fortunate to collaborate with American actress and singer Vanessa Williams on this project; the music should be available on Spotify soon. OUT THERE will continue its life in festivals, notably at the beginning of 2020 in the United States to showcase it in major events. We have a lot of great avenues planned for 2020, which will be announced soon. This is a necessary step before a general release.
OUT THERE from the beginning
T. M. - About OUT THERE, I am the creator behind the project. Everything started with a project I had been developing for quite some time with my friend Christopher Hanson whom I met during my years of study at UCLA, and is now a Creative Producer at Fable Studio. For Wilkins Avenue, I wanted a truly unique concept, something that had never been done before, a new territory to explore in innovation and creativity. A while ago, I met the guys at Pollen Music Group, the music team behind some of the best immersive experiences in VR, including Pearl, Age of Sail, and Crow. I had the idea of creating the first-ever immersive musical in Mixed Reality, went to them with the concept and they were immediately on-board. The story, the format grew out of that. At Wilkins Avenue we had been experimenting with Magic Leap’s technology since its early, developer release in the US. There are great things to build around Spatial Computing in dedicated, physical spaces, and I really think the future of entertainment may be tomorrow in an even bigger format (buildings) with better resolutions.
T. M. - OUT THERE is inspired by Broadway & Disney musicals, with the desire to let the user at the center of the story. In mixed reality, it's completely different from VR. The perception of the music is different depending on your movements in the space. In addition to spatial sound for characters, the experience features musical instruments, like an old gramophone or a music box, which let you hear many different versions of the song.
T. M. - The musical mix is therefore personalized: the experience is never the same ! We encourage people to really walk around the whole setting. On animation, we worked with some of the best animators and character designers in the industry. The experience is an interesting combination of real-time 3D, and 2D animation.
T. M. - Magic Leap was quickly interested in presenting an experience at Comic Con Paris - since it is one of the biggest entertainment events in Europe - but also in the creative side that our concept offered. They helped us on the hardware of course, but also during production and the release with a lot of posts (especially on their blog - link). For them it’s an interesting use of their technology as we’re creating the future of entertainment!
Next (or now): Location-based experiences
T. M. - At Wilkins Avenue we specialize in location-based experiences (LBE). We look at what The Void or Dreamscape are doing worldwide. It's about offering a real destination to the public, a life-size experience - and for the immersive industry that makes sense to me. You have to understand the location where your experience is displayed, to consider the place and its cost.
T. M. - In 2019 we collaborated with the Koezio group (5 theme parks in France and Belgium - link) to design a unique, multi-user, free-roaming VR experience - ICE CUBE PROTOCOL. For this project, Wilkins Avenue hired the multi-awarded game designer behind Metal Gear Solid V, God of War Ascension and NBA 2K19, who helped me imagine the best possible experience to maximise throughput in a limited space. Our objective was to get as many people playing at the same time. ICE CUBE PROTOCOL is played in an 80 square-meters room, from 2 to 5 players, and a new team every 15 minutes to play a 35 minutes-gameplay. We had to invent a real road for everyone, a turn-over which is quite efficient!