LOS ANGELES — Award-winning visual effects house FuseFX, which produces visual effects for such shows as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., American Horror Story, Marvel’s Luke Cage and Criminal Minds, has launched a spinoff venture to tackle projects in the rapidly expanding field of virtual reality. FuseVR will create visual effects assets for virtual reality projects, including 3D sets, digital environments and CG characters. The effort will be led by Bud Myrick as VR Supervisor and John Heller as VR Creative Director.
In its first outing, FuseVR provided visual effects services for Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars, a virtual reality production that recently debuted to wide acclaim at SXSW. The piece features the legendary astronaut of the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 missions presenting his vision for sending humans to the Red Planet. FuseVR artists created a number of digital sets and environments for the project including Aldrin’s proposed spacecraft, a moon base used for “vapor mining” and a 360 degree view of the Milky Way.
FuseFX President David Altenau said that the studio has the tools, talent and expertise to enliven VR productions with Hollywood-caliber visuals. “We expect VR to become a major component of our media experience and we want to be a part of it,” Altenau observed. “Our workflow adapts readily to VR and we have a skilled team that is enthusiastic about taking on the challenge. There is a big need in VR production for digital assets and environments, and no one does that better than we do.”
Myrick is a 25-year veteran of the visual effects industry whose VR experience includes Escape the Living Dead, notable for its groundbreaking use of moving VR cameras and feature-quality visual effects. His background also includes 15 years at Rhythm & Hues, where he contributed to visual effects for films such as Serenity, Men in Black II, X-Men 2 and Around the World in 80 Days.
Heller is also a veteran of Rhythm & Hues, where his credits as VFX Supervisor included Big Miracle, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and The Bourne Legacy. As an independent, he has worked on such films as A Walk in the Woods and Secret in Their Eyes.
Heller noted that FuseFX has been planning its entry into VR for more than a year. “We’ve been building relationships and examining opportunities in this new space,” he said. “Once we began to think seriously about it, it took on a life of its own and became part of our paradigm.”
FuseVR was contracted for the Buzz Aldrin project by VR production company 8i. The studio developed the lunar mining base from concepts suggested by Dr. Andrew Aldrin, Buzz Aldrin’s son. The Martian surface was created from photogrammetry data captured in Morocco, where NASA conducts Martian surface simulations.The most challenging effect, appearing at the climax of the piece, places the viewer in the center of a rapidly expanding Milky Way galaxy.
“The visuals were designed with VR in mind,” explained Myrick. “They include environments that can only be adequately experienced in virtual reality. It’s a moment of wonder.”
“People are wowed by this piece,” Myrick added. “It’s an outstanding project, particularly for our first foray in VR.”
Altenau described the project as an ideal demonstration of what FuseVR brings to virtual reality production. “It went very smoothly and was a great experience for our team,” he said. “It laid the groundwork for future VR projects.”