FX Gets ‘American Horror Story’ Fans Excited About New Season With Spoiler-Free VR Experience

The sixth season of “American Horror Story” debuts on Sept. 14, but FX has kept the storyline so deeply under wraps that the team marketing the show had to devise a fan experience that would excite returning devotes and lure new viewers even as it remained spoiler-free.

FX Networks VP of integrated promotions Kenya Hardaway told outside producers to focus their promo pitches on a work of virtual reality. And after reviewing many bids, she decided to go with a concept presented by Swedish-American design firm North Kingdom that featured scenes inducing vertigo and claustrophobia, and included masked faces along with characters from the show’s past.

“They understood the spirit of what we were looking for,” she says.

The VR event had its premiere run at Comic-Con in July, where FX constructed an immersive experience for fans inside a dark, ominous-looking silo. Unlike most virtual reality rides, which are a solitary experience, this one was communal, accommodating several viewers simultaneously.

“We were able to build [in] connectivity,” says North Kingdom executive creative director Daniel Ilic.

“In general, VR is an individual experience, but we were able to build [in] connectivity.”
North Kingdom’s Daniel Ilic

The Comic-Con room included five black “beds” arranged in the shape of a pentagon. Each participant was asked to lie down, and hospital sheets were placed over their bodies, masking identifiable features. The prone adventurers wore VR headsets that received signals from hidden computers, transporting them into a terrifying, immersive five-minute-long horror show — a journey that took them among some of the series’ creepiest characters and scariest moments.

To create those moments, Ilic and his team opted for a photo-realistic presentation, instead of using live-action images; elements of the show’s production design, such as a medical laboratory or hotel corridor, were integrated into CG settings. For the introduction of such icons as Twisty the Clown and the nun from “Coven,” actors were dressed in the authentic costumes of those characters and captured in a full 3D scan. Those scans were then converted into models and animated.

During the testing phase, Ilic and his team tracked subjects as they interacted with the CG environment, allowing those controlling the experience to make real-time adjustments to everything from color palette to visual cues in order to direct viewers’ attention to key focal points. They relied on common phobias to trick participants into feeling such sensations “as heat and vertigo.

“That’s the beauty of VR,” says Ilic. “Everything takes place in the mind.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content