Behind-the-scenes With Google’s New Live-action 360 Short Film ‘Help’


During ATAP’s presentation at this year’s Google I/O, the in-house skunkworks debuted HELP, a new live-action 360 monster movie made in collaboration with The Mill and Star Trek 3 director Justin Lin.

Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) has recently debuted HELP, a made-for-VR 360 film that blends live-action and CG to create a fluid cinematic experience that truly looks like it belongs on the big screen. ATAP has been cooking up the project for the last 13 months in collaboration with VFX studio The Mill, and action film director Justin Lin, best known for his work on the Fast and the Furious franchise and upcoming Star Trek 3.

HELP was produced especially for Google’s Spotlight Stories, a device-agnostic version of Motorola Spotlight player, the company’s non-VR 360 degree video app. The short film clocks in at about 5 minutes long, and nearly 1GB for the non-VR version currently available for free on Spotlight Stories app for Android.

The Mill, a VFX industry veteran that has had their hands in a number of video game trailers and national advertising campaigns, collaborated with ATAP to help solve some of the challenges involved with shooting the 360 VR video. The studio was principally tasked with combining live action and CG for the project, but also helped develop a custom mount for the 6K Red Dragon Camera sensors fitted with fish-eye lenses for 360 degree capture.

the mill camera rig 360 degree video

Although the The Mill was tight-lipped on any eventual VR release of the film, they did tell us that “there is some talk that eventually Spotlight Stories will support HMDs,” also conceding that “the fact that the environments are mostly CG… [means] stereo is technically achievable.”

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To maintain a high level of cinematic polish, the VFX studio developed some very slick proprietary software during the project’s production called ‘Mill Stitch’, a stitching software that allowed the CG-heavy film to maintain a professional look without any apparent stitching artifacts or seams—a hot topic as of late considering Google’s new found interest in 360 video processing.

The Spotlight Stories app will soon be available for iOS devices and the film will be viewable on YouTube later this summer.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Sean Concannon OculusOptician

    Looks fantastic, anyone know how to find a viewable PC version for the DK2?