There weren’t a lot of people around to witness the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903, but that didn’t stop Daniel Gregoire and Steve Holtzman, founders of virtual reality shop MATTERvr, from creating “First,” a VR experience reimagining that historic event for the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Using archives, Gregoire, animatics director on Fox’s “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” and Holtzman, that show’s producer, visualized every detail of the first powered liftoff that gave birth to modern aviation — from the structure of the flying machine to the effect of the wind to the texture of the ground.
It wasn’t easy. “With every answer, we were led to a new series of questions,” Holtzman says. “Creating this environment required knowledge we couldn’t obtain by simply reading accounts or studying schematics.”
MATTERvr used game-development software Unreal Engine to create the CG scene. Human elements were recorded using motion-capture and facial-expression-acquisition technology.
Once the environment was complete, the plane animated, and mocap imported, a “camera” coursed through the scene to showcase the flight in real-time in 360 degrees. Sound design completed the immersive experience.