×

Immersive WWI Hellscape Comes to Tribeca Film Fest (EXCLUSIVE)

War is coming to Tribeca Film Festival, specifically World War I delivered through an immersive experience that combines the technology of virtual reality, haptic feedback, and special effects with the physical sets of a theater and voice talents of a famed podcaster.

War Remains,” which debuts at Tribeca later this month, was created by MWM Immersive, the group behind “Chained: A Victorian Nightmare” and the upcoming VR game “Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son.”

The installation, narrated by Hardcore History’s Dan Carlin, was directed by Academy Award-winner Brandon Oldenburg and developed by immersive storytellers Flight School Studio, with audio design by Skywalker Sound.

“‘War Remains’ is about throwing audiences directly into an immersive memory of the First World War,” said Ethan Stearns, executive producer at MWM Immersive. “You begin by stepping into our physical set and donning a wireless VR headset that allows you full freedom to walk through the stage.”

Stearns tells Variety that the installation is broken into several sections, each with unique experiences.

“At times, you’re coming as close to the horrors of historical warfare that modern technology can bring you, and it can be terrifying and exhilarating, and also very loud and even emotionally challenging,” he said. “At other moments, Dan’s narration takes a more educational tone, and he gives you a high-level understanding of how the conflict evolved and of how the First World War changed battlefields forever. We think that Dan and our director, Brandon Oldenburg, did a spectacular job of balancing a user’s learning about this watershed moment in time while always keeping them on their toes.”

Stearns said the inception for the idea started almost three years ago when MWM founders Clint Kisker and Gigi Pritzker started talking with Carlin.

“Dan is an icon in the world of podcasts and his material is a truly visceral listen,” he said. “We were thrilled to meet the challenge of translating his work into a new and cutting edge medium.”

The team used the Unreal Engine to create the virtual reality experience, which was then paired up with set design and other real-world special effects.

Carlin calls the experience a “time machine-like dive into a Western Front battlefield … the most realistic simulation to date of a nightmarish human experience from more than a century ago.”

“I’ve always said that places like the Western Front at their worst were inconceivable to those who hadn’t seen them firsthand, but one of the valuable parts of this experience is it uses the latest technology and techniques to make it easier to imagine,” he said in a prepared statement. “In that sense, I hope it’s an empathy-enhancement tool. It takes things one step further than film or television or video games have been able to do.”

Stearns describes it as an immersive experience that stands apart from video games, movies or television.

“The project combines elements from a range of different established mediums, from games and film to interactive theater, but very few groups are doing anything quite like this,” he said. “Beyond sight and sound, ‘War Remains’ enhances the participant’s sense of presence with physical haptics. Guests can literally reach out and touch the walls of the trench, and this paired with other effects like wind and floor rumblers provide a more powerful sense of immersion then you could ever feel in a movie or video game.”

The result, he said, is much more impactful than anything a traditional movie could deliver.

“The First World War was a horrible experience for everyone on the front lines, and a traditional movie can only go so far in terms of translating that experience to a viewer,” Stearns said. “One of our goals with ‘War Remains’ was to give people an intimate feeling of what it was actually like to be in the trenches – to feel the earth tremble as a tank crawls over the trench, to feel the wind from across the apocalyptic landscape on their face, to hear and see fallen comrades as if they are right next to you.

“Dan likes to refer to this as tapping into a viewer’s ‘lizard brain.’ We feel that this type of experience, one that blends digital and physical, leaves a much greater impact than a movie on a screen.”

Tickets for “War Remains” are available online through the Tribeca Film Festival. After the experience’s run at Tribeca, it will be moving to Austin for another limited run, Stearns said. The hope is to bring “War Remains” to other markets after Austin as well, he said.

With “War Remains” wrapped, MWM Immersive are in the midst of working on a number of other projects for use at home, Stearns said.

We love interactive entertainment and want to share it with as many people as possible,” he said. “This project is a perfect example of what we do at MWM.  Working with the world’s best storytellers and helping them use the right medium and create the right message through their content.  We are so excited to tease people with this trailer, but even more excited for people to step into this immersive memory at Tribeca in a few weeks.”

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare

    Call of Duty League Commissioner on Why It's Time for a Franchise Model

    “Call of Duty” esports is officially headed for a city-based model. Publisher Activision Blizzard announced over the summer that the newly coined Call of Duty League will have a franchised, home-and-away structure immediately when it launches its inaugural season in early 2020. It’s set 12 teams in 11 cities, and the roster mania has already [...]

  • Nintendo Switch

    Nintendo Switch Unit Sales Top 15 Million in North America Since Launch

    Nintendo is tooting its own horn, boasting that the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite systems have together sold over 15 million units in North America to date. That’s according to the company’s own internal data. As of July, the Nintendo Switch had sold over 36 million consoles worldwide, the company said. Nintendo Switch carries [...]

  • Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order

    'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order': Respawn CEO on Telling the Story Behind 'Becoming a Jedi'

    When it comes to media properties, it doesn’t get much bigger than “Star Wars.” That sentiment certainly isn’t lost on Vince Zampella, CEO of Respawn Entertainment, the studio behind “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” The title, which follows Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis (voiced by Cameron Monaghan) after the events of “Episode III — Revenge of [...]

  • Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order

    'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order': What to Expect From EA and Respawn's Latest

    There’s a lot riding on “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” The upcoming title from EA and Respawn is the first major single-player “Star Wars” video game since 2008’s “The Force Unleashed,” and is one of the most anticipated games of 2019. After years of multiplayer adventures, could “Fallen Order” be the title that brings the [...]

  • Google Stadia Game Streaming Service Launching

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service Will Launch Nov. 19

    Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh gave us an update on the company’s game streaming service Stadia during the company’s fall hardware event in New York Tuesday: Stadia will be available to the public on Nov. 19. Stadia promises to stream games directly from the cloud, with no need to buy a full-blown game console. Consumers [...]

  • Fortnite Chapter 2

    'Fortnite' Emerges From Black Hole With All-New Island in Chapter 2

    After its previous world was sucked into a black hole, “Fortnite” is back — with an all-new island featuring a map with 13 different locations. The latest installment of the free-to-play battle royale game, which publisher Epic Games calls the first season of “Fortnite” Chapter 2, went live early Tuesday at around 6 a.m. ET. [...]

  • Fortnite-Season-X-Out-of-Time

    'Fortnite' Goes Dark: A Masterful Marketing Stroke by Epic Games

    On Sunday, “Fortnite” — the most popular game on Earth right now — without warning, imploded into darkness. At around 2 p.m. ET on Oct. 13, a meteor in Season 10 of “Fortnite” that had been biding its time set off a cataclysmic chain reaction that sucked up everything on the the island and eventually [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content