‘Ready Player One’ Behind-the-scenes Shows How Spielberg Used VR in Production


As an official partner of Ready Player One, HTC has been using the film to highlight its VR wares. In addition to releasing several VR experiences inspired by the movie, the company has released a behind-the-scenes short showing how immersive virtual reality was used in the production process.

As blockbuster films increasingly rely on CGI, filmmakers have looked for better ways to visualize the virtual worlds that are eventually rendered for the final movie. Huge portions of Spielberg’s Ready Player One take place in a completely computer-generated virtual world (with fully digital characters), nearly 90 minutes of its 180 minute runtime, according to Fxguide.

'Ready Player One' Behind-the-scenes Shows How Spielberg Used VR in Production
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With so much of the film taking place in CGI, Spielberg and others were able to easily peer inside of virtual sets using consumer VR headsets during production. In doing so, the director, actors, and others were better able to visualize the virtual world that would eventually surround them in the film, informing performances, shots, and set design in real-time, according to a new behind-the-scenes short release by HTC:

Fxguide has a great detailed breakdown of Ready Player One’s production process, noting that Industrial Light & Magic produced everything in the film’s ‘Oasis’ virtual world, while Digital Domain handled motion capture and visual effects in the real world portions. Fxguide’s Mike Seymour explains how the film leveraged virtual production techniques:

Spielberg commented after filming that, “every single set in the OASIS is virtual, so they created an avatar for me that let me walk through the space and see the actual set. And once I figured out how I was going to shoot each sequence, I asked the actors to put on the goggles so they could get a feeling of what their environment looked like. Otherwise you’re acting in a big white room with a bunch of digital cameras looking down at you. It’s confusing for any actor or director to walk onto a bare-naked set and try to imagine what’s there. With the goggles on, we didn’t have to imagine. All we had to do was remember what it looked like when we were back in the motion capture volume.”

Spielberg also utilized a custom virtual camera rig specially developed for him by motion capture production supervisor Clint Spillers, who had worked with the director on both of his previous mocap films. Having made note of Spielberg’s likes and dislikes on those projects, Spillers consulted with robotic engineer Jim Kundig at Digital Domain to develop and fabricate a lighter, ergonomically friendly handheld virtual camera rig, complete with its own small screen to monitor the real-time game engine render. “Steven could quickly toggle through lenses or adjust his perspective with the push of a button. It’s the slickest camera rig ever designed,” Spillers says with a smile.

And while HTC naturally wants to highlight the Vive’s use in the production of the film, apparently a number of headsets were used throughout. Girish Balakrishnan, the film’s Virtual Production Lead at Digital Domain, tweeted, “we used Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and HoloLens during the filming of Ready Player One, not just one headset. Each one was used at a different stage of production. When shooting mocap, Rift. When scouting virtual cameras, Vive. When on the practical set, Hololens.”

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • ummm…

    ha! suck it rifters….love you.

    • ChristopherErwinHogan

      Did you forget to actually READ the article????
      “we used Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and HoloLens during the filming of Ready Player One, not just one headset. Each one was used at a different stage of production. When shooting mocap, Rift. When scouting virtual cameras, Vive. When on the practical set, Hololens.” So, the fact that you only saw what you WANTED to see speaks volumes about your critical thinking ability.

      • ummm…

        only saw the video, which i only saw the vive in. i was cleary joking, and you are clearly butt hurt about some ridiculous manufactured hardware wars. i dont blame you tho. everyone including me is so offended and ready to fight these days. my only advice to you is stuff loser.

        • TechnoHunter

          grow up

      • rtfm

        too much retarded to read

  • Another great article, thanks!

  • Nathanael Mooth

    As clunkily obvious a sponsorship as this was, I am still jealous that I wasn’t able to walk around those sets too. :P

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Now we need a full VR movie made with a realtime 3D engine. I bet James Cameron or Robert Zemeckis will do it first.

  • Michelangel0

    I love it this, nice post RoadtoVR.

    Virtual Reality is providing new concepts and tools. This could be the beginnin of a Matrix style universe but created not by those machines, but from us directly. A-Mazing! Kudos to Steven Spielberg and HTC Vive. Let’s see when an entire virtual movie is created heheheh

  • Larkman

    Way cool!

  • Arek A

    Where’s Oculus? Why they don’t engage on such of events?

  • daveinpublic

    Wow, amazing how far technology has come. Awesome video. I think the advances in technology reawakened Steven’s love for directing, because I haven’t seen him direct this well in decades.

  • Andreas Gudevold

    I think Vr tech is going to make many peoples life better and more interessting. (Like most technology does). You can travel in a “perfect” world made just the way you will have it, and do whatever you want. The computer power just increases more and more and faster and faster. I for sure going to enjoy my time om the retirement home where i’ll be in a cool place fighting aliens and make love to beautiful women all the time, in a vr world :)