See the world through David Haller’s eyes
San Diego Comic-Con has become an informal virtual reality testing ground over the past couple of years, with many fans getting their first exposure to the technology thanks to TV show activations and movie tie-ins. This year the network FX will be doing the same thing for the Microsoft HoloLens, with a mixed reality experience based on the Noah Hawley showLegion.
Directed by Justin Denton from VR production company Here Be Dragons, Sessions: The Legion Mixed Reality Experience will be a 10-minute piece in which fans will experience scenes from the first season of the show, as well as get glimpses of the upcoming second season. Utilizing both the HoloLens headset and live actors, it will attempt to put viewers into the eyes of lead character David Haller (Dan Stevens), a diagnosed schizophrenic who discovers he may actually be a superpowerful mutant instead. Sessions will be part of the network’s FXhibition 2017, a massive interactive installation near the San Diego Convention Center that will also feature activations based upon shows like American Horror Story, Atlanta, and The Strain.
As Denton explains to me on the phone, the mixed reality approach was key in trying to re-create what living like David Haller would be like. “Certain things you can and can't do with VR,” he says. “But using an augmented reality landscape, mixed with live actors and a purpose-built installation space; people are just immediately transported to this other world.” While the creators were keeping quiet on specific details about the experience, even after watching a few episodes of Legion it’s not too hard to imagine what that could mean. The series routinely blurs the line between fiction and reality, and Haller’s temperament makes him particularly prone to psychokinetic outbursts.
Denton was also part of the team behind last year’s Mr. Robot VR experience, which pulled off the difficult trick of both working as a self-contained piece of VR narrative, while also elaborating on the show’s backstory. It was just one of many VR and immersive experiences available at the 2016 convention, with projects like X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad(and many others) all throwing their hats into the ring. The search for audience attention has turned Comic-Con into a kind of creative arms race, with studios and networks eager to experiment with new technological tricks and even more ambitious installations to break through the noise.
That can sometimes lead to brand activations that come off as nothing more than themed stunts, made without any involvement from the creative teams of the shows and film they’re promoting. But according to Kenya Hardaway, senior vice president of integrated promotions at FX, the network took special care to avoid that issue with Sessions. “We were really fortunate. The show was really supportive of what we were working towards,” she says. “They dedicated a writer to help us punch up the script. They were open to allowing us to have some elements from the set, and really guiding us to make sure that the story we were telling was in line with what they have planned for season 2. So they're as excited about bringing it to Comic-Con as we are.”