Introducing ‘ISS Tour with Victor Glover’—a ‘Space Explorers’ Special Feature from Felix & Paul Studios

Oculus Blog
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February 28, 2022
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As Black History Month comes to a close, the observance continues with ISS Tour with Victor Glover—a Space Explorers Special Feature from Felix & Paul Studios, now available in Oculus TV on the Quest Platform. A NASA Astronaut, Captain with the US Navy, and member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Glover most recently served as pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon. He also served as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.

We sat down with Felix & Paul Studios Co-Founder / Creative Director Félix Lajeunesse to talk about VR filmmaking, what it was like to work with Glover, and more.

What first interested you in VR as a medium?

Félix Lajeunesse: Between 2010 and 2013, prior to creating virtual reality works, Paul [Raphaël] and I collaborated on the creation of a series of video installations designed to create the illusion of presence. At the time, we were using 3D stereoscopic video imagery projected inside of controlled viewing environments, to create the illusion of looking into other realities with protagonists that appeared to be “physically there.” We were combining that technological and experiential apparatus to a highly naturalistic approach to storytelling—with the goal of achieving what we referred to at the time as “reality capture.”

When Oculus (now rebranded as Meta Quest) released its first VR headset prototype back in 2013, it became clear to us that given the approach to immersive cinema that we had been exploring and pioneering, the medium of virtual reality would become the next step in the evolution of our work.

How has it changed your approach to filmmaking?

FL: We evolved the 3D filming technology and process we were using at the time to achieve 3D capture at 360°, and in 2013 we directed our first VR film titled Strangers with Patrick Watson, which was designed as a single “moment” with a music artist writing and performing new material. Since then, we founded Felix & Paul Studios and focused on exploring and expanding the medium of VR. Every project we’ve made, from The People’s House with Barack and Michelle Obama to Jurassic World: Blue to Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, has been an opportunity to go further in our exploration of VR as a medium. Today, we combine cinematic and interactive expertise to create large-scale traveling VR experiences such as THE INFINITE. The work we do keeps evolving.

How do you think VR will continue to impact filmmaking moving forward?

FL: Virtual reality is and will always be about presence. It’s about immersing audiences into digital experiences that provide the same emotional and sensorial resonance, as well as the same depth of presence, as real-life experiences. No one has a crystal ball to predict with certainty how VR will impact the world of cinema and filmmaking in the future, but my belief is that in the coming years and decades, as virtual reality continues its expansion into mainstream culture, it will spark the imagination of young creators, storytellers, and filmmakers who will have grown with that technology and who will feel more “natively drawn” to telling stories through VR rather than the medium of cinema.

What was it like getting to work with Victor Glover?

FL: Victor is a highly intelligent, charismatic, and kind person and working with him has always been a pleasure and an honor. I met Victor for the first time back in 2017 at NASA. We got to film an interview and training session with him at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA Johnson Space Center for Space Explorers: Taking Flight, and then a few years later, we continued filming with him, this time aboard the International Space Station, for the fourth and final episode of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. After Victor returned to Earth, we got to work with him one more time for the production of ISS Tour with Victor Glover, as part of Connect 2021. It’s been fascinating to document in virtual reality Victor’s journey as an astronaut over the past few years. And this process will continue with Space Explorers: Mission to the Moon.

How does it feel to be able to launch this special feature during Black History Month?

FL: We are honored that the virtual reality footage we filmed in space with Victor gets presented in the context of Black History Month. If our virtual reality work in space can inspire audiences on Earth to envision a better future for all, then we feel like the whole journey and process of building and sending cameras to space and working in collaboration with NASA for a few years to capture that footage was definitely worth it.

Are there any interesting anecdotes from filming that you can share?

FL: I have an endless amount of stories to tell about what it’s like to film a high-production value virtual reality series, when the production team is based on Earth while the astronauts and set you work with are flying across outer space. It can all be summed up with this: Every single time we successfully filmed a scene, received the footage down on Earth, and reviewed it in virtual reality, it felt like a miracle.

What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?

FL: We’re touring across the US with a large-scale interactive VR exhibit titled THE INFINITE. Presented in Houston until end of April 2022 and then in Seattle for the summer, this traveling installation invites audiences to explore a life-size virtual reproduction of the International Space Station and to discover the virtual reality footage that we’ve filmed inside and outside the Space Station over the past three years with 10 astronauts—and that includes the first-ever spacewalk captured in cinematic virtual reality.

As THE INFINITE travels across the world for the next decade, we’re beginning to document the journey of humanity’s return to the Moon in virtual reality. For the next few years, we’ll focus on the creation of Space Explorers: Mission to the Moon and take worldwide audiences to the lunar surface alongside the astronauts.