Lucasfilm vets to help Hollywood storytellers use VR
The new studio will set up its first physical plant on the west side of Los Angeles, near other digital media companies. The company did not project how many people Jaunt Studios will eventually employ, but said over the next few months it will hire a core team of directors, artists, d.p.’s and technical staff to work with the company’s Palo Alto-based technologists.
Jaunt VR’s HQ and core engineering team will remain in Silicon Valley while Jaunt Studios keeps a presence in Los Angeles. Jaunt Studios will be led by Cliff Plumer, former CEO of Digital Domain and chief technology officer of Lucasfilm. Plumer will be based at the Los Angeles studio.
Plumer told Variety he has been involved with VR technology since before the launch of the first Oculus Rift developer kit. “I was blown away even at that early stage,” he says. He has since helped introduce VR tech to Hollywood and got involved with live-action VR production. “Then I really found out how difficult it is to produce content in life-action VR,” he said, “which is what attracted me to Jaunt, which had been working on solving those technical problems,” he said.
Jaunt Studios has several objectives, said Plumer. One is to estblish the VR process in Hollywood, using camera, player and distribution tech already built by Jaunt. Another is to educate filmmakers in how to tell stories in VR. “It’ll be a production sandbox to collaborate with Hollywood storytellers,” said Plumer. “We’re not only shooting using our cameras but integrating computer graphics and visual effects as well.”
Also joining Jaunt Studios are David Anderman, who will be chief business officer, and Miles Perkins, whose title will be vice president of marketing communications. Both, like Plumer, were mainstays at Lucasfilm/Industrial Light & Magic before Disney purchased the company. Anderman was Lucasfilm general counsel; he was selected to Variety’s 2012 Dealmakers Impact Report for his work shepherding the Disney-Lucasfilm merger. Perkins was Lucasfilm’s head of corporate communications.
Anderman will be based at Jaunt’s Silicon Valley HQ. “At Lucasfilm we’d seen many different forms of VR, and a lot of it was gaming and computer graphics,” he said, “but what blew me away was the Paul McCartney concert, where you’re standing on stage and you have that experience of what it is to be a rock star. It totally blew me away and I thought cinematic VR is what everyone’s going to want to experience. I was converted that day. The next day I was an adviser and then chief business officer a few months later.”
Disclosure: Jaunt VR has worked with Variety on virtual reality coverage of red carpets and other events.