Paul Raphaël, left, and Félix Lajeunesse are making their mark on the VR industry. (Submitted by Felix & Paul Studios)
2 Concordia grads go from making music videos to filming VR experiences with Barack Obama and Lebron James
In five years, two Concordia University film school graduates have created virtual reality experiences featuring superstars like basketball player LeBron James, and U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël — founders of the eponymous, VR production company, Felix & Paul Studios — said Obama was their favourite subject of the three.
"We've had quite a blast with him and his team," said Lajeunesse.
"He was very excited about the possibilities of immersive media and virtual reality to transport people."
VR offers new way to reach public
Lajeunesse and Raphaël met more than a decade ago while working on a music video, and before launching Felix & Paul Studios, they made short films together.
Their excitement for the new kinds of storytelling that VR makes possible, bubbled over into the creation of a studio dedicated to it.
But it was the dynamic new way VR can reach the public that most interested Obama.
The studio made two VR experiences with him — one goes inside national parks, and another takes the viewer on a tour of the White House.
The duo arrived at the White House with a defined plan that had been worked out in advance with the secret service, but as filming went on, Obama was enjoying the process so much "he himself was literally opening doors to rooms that were previously off limits," Raphaël said.
Experiences on display in Montreal, available online
On top of finding themselves welcomed into Obama's White House, their work has taken them to the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.
But the duo's work is also on display where they first began, here in Montreal.
The Phi Centre's VR Garden is currently presenting some of the studio's work in its Particles of Existence exhibition — Space Explorers: A New Dawn, which looks at NASA astronauts in training, and Isle of Dogs: Behind the Scenes, based on Wes Anderson's stop-motion animation film.
Felix & Paul Studios "are recognized as pioneer in this industry," said Myriam Achard, the curator of Particles of Existence, which runs until August 12.
Some of the studio's work can also be seen in 360-degree videos on Facebook and YouTube, or through VR gear like Oculus Rift and Google Daydream.
Lajeunesse said its the studio's involvement in projects from their inception, through to the script writing and directing, which sets them apart.
"What's special about our studio is we do the full spectrum," Lajeunesse said.
He said camera designs are informed by the creative requirements of any pieces they work on, and programming is influenced similarly.
"We're very proud of that model and its proven to be a key ingredient to explain the success and progress of our studio in the past five years," he said.