×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

MWM Immersive’s ‘Chained’ Combines Immersive Theater With Virtual Reality

Imagine finding yourself in a Victorian-era mystery, complete with dark spirits and a haunting quest of self-discovery. Now imagine you’re doing all of that while wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset, with live actors talking to you, holding your hand, guiding you through their dream-like world.

That in a gist is “Chained: A Victorian Nightmare,” a new location-based VR experience that debuted in Los Angeles last week. Produced by MWM’s MWM Immersive unit in collaboration with Here Be Dragons, “Chained” combines VR with immersive theater for a very unique and moving interpretation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The experience was created and directed by Justin Denton, whose 13-year work history in Hollywood included stints as VFX supervisor on movies like “Battleship” and “47 Ronin.” When Denton discovered VR, he also began to explore the immersive theater space, which seemed to closely mirror the potential of VR to turn viewers into participants.

“I don’t think of this as a VR experience,” Denton recently told Variety following a demo of “Chained.” “I think of it as an immersive theater experience that uses VR.”

CREDIT: Courtesy of MWM Interactive

One of the interesting aspects of “Chained” is that it uses immersive theater as a kind of gateway to the world of VR. Viewers/participants enter a Victorian-era styled room, where they are met by an actress who prepares them for their spirit journey while staying in character, taking down their name with a fountain pen in an old log book, and ultimately handing them the headset to send them off into the VR world.

Once in VR, audience members meet and talk to some dark spirits, who adapt the story on the fly based on these conversations. “There is no pre-recorded dialogue of any kind,” Denton said. “No one will have the experience that you just had.” Actors, sounds, and animation help to guide the audience’s attention, but how people will actually respond is somewhat unpredictable. “People just behave differently,” Denton said.

CREDIT: Courtesy of MWM Interactive

To account for this element of surprise, Denton and his team decided not to pre-record or pre-render any of the spirits. Instead, “Chained” uses live actors and real-time motion capture to animate the spirits on the fly. The result is an extremely immersive experience, with animated spirits reaching out to you and their hands actually touching yours.

“Chained” also uses a number of other physical cues for heightened immersion. A spirit may hand you an apple or ask you to sit down on a bed. However, compared to other location-based VR experiences, “Chained” uses these cues sparingly and only if they’re in service of the story.

Likewise, “Chained” doesn’t use the latest and greatest in location-based VR tech, opting for a tethered headset instead of a VR backpack. However, you’ll quickly forget about the cable floating over your head, and not even realize that you walk around in a space that only measures about 25 square feet, thanks to set changes that work like dreamlike transitions from small and intimate rooms to much bigger spaces. “All of the technology is in service to the story,” Denton said.

CREDIT: Courtesy of MWM Interactive

Another difference between Denton’s piece and location-based experiences like ones from the Void: You’ll enter the world of “Chained” alone, as it is decidedly not a social experience. “I definitely want to play with multiple people,” he said. “This isn’t the story for that.”

At $40 a ticket and slots of 25 minutes for each participant, “Chained” is very much a bespoke VR experience, admitted MWM Immersive executive producer Ethan Stearns, who previously produced Alejandro González Iñárritu’s award-winning VR experience “Carne y Arena.” The company decided against optimizing for throughput, and instead wants to use the Los Angeles debut as a way to introduce the world to the story of “Chained.” “We are looking at it as a launch event for the content,” he said.

To that end, MWM Immersive ultimately aims to produce a home-based VR version, but also bring “Chained” to other cities next year. “We see it as an opportunity to launch something very special,” Stearns said.

“Chained” is scheduled to run in Los Angeles until Jan. 6. Tickets for the show are currently sold out, but new tickets are being made available from time to time.

More Digital

  • hdhomerun roku app

    HDHomerun App Brings Live TV to Roku Devices

    Roku users are getting another way to watch live television with the help of their favorite streaming devices: Silicondust, maker of the HDHomerun TV tuners, has released a beta version of its HDHomerun app for Roku TVs and streaming devices. “We need to start out by saying this is very much a beta product,” the [...]

  • Vox Media

    Vox Media Staff Ratifies First Union Contract, Negotiated by Writers Guild

    Staffers at Vox Media, which includes Curbed, Eater, Polygon, Recode, SB Nation, The Verge and Vox.com, have ratified their first collective bargaining agreement with more than 90% in support. The staffers are represented by the Writers Guild of America East. Vox Media’s 350-member unit began bargaining their first contract in April 2018. The campaign to [...]

  • Joslyn Davis, Lily-Marston - Shared Media

    Clevver’s Joslyn Davis, Lily Marston Launch Their Own YouTube Media Venture (EXCLUSIVE)

    Here’s the latest chapter in the saga of Clevver, the entertainment/lifestyle YouTube network marooned by the shuttering of former parent Defy Media and subsequently snapped up by Hearst Magazines. Two of the principal creatives behind Clevver — Joslyn Davis and Lily Marston — together with Clevver Media co-founder Jorge Maldonado have launched Shared Media, their [...]

  • Money-Diaries-Refinery29

    Refinery29 to Produce Interactive Series Funded by Eko (EXCLUSIVE)

    Refinery29 has been bitten by the “Bandersnatch” bug. The millennial-female-focused digital media and entertainment company inked a pact with Eko, an interactive-video platform developer whose backers include Walmart, to produce several “choose-your-own-adventure”-style series based on Refinery29 content properties. The companies have started development on their first project: an interactive scripted adaptation of Refinery29’s popular “Money [...]

  • Dan Howell

    YouTube Star Dan Howell Comes Out as Gay: 'It Gets So Much Better'

    It’s Pride Month, and popular YouTube vlogger Dan Howell had a message for fans that he’d been working on for a year: “Basically, I’m Gay,” he shared in a video Thursday. In the 45-minute video, Howell discussed coming to terms with his sexual orientation and his thoughts on labels that people use to define themselves [...]

  • Netflix Expands Korean Content Commitment

    Netflix Expands Korean Content Commitment as Industry Deepens

    Global streaming giant, Netflix is expanding its involvement in the Korean film and TV industries by greenlighting several new shows and renewing others. “When we started three years ago, we had a high degree of confidence that Korean drama would work well in Asia, but we had no internal metrics of our own,” Korean content [...]

  • Instagram Logo

    Instagram Outage: Facebook’s Photo Sharing Service Went Down For Multiple Hours

    Instagram faced another major outage Thursday afternoon, with users from around the world reporting that they weren’t able to access Facebook’s photo sharing service via its app and website. An Instagram spokesperson told Variety around 5pm PT that the issue had been resolved: “Earlier today, a technical issue caused some people to have trouble accessing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content