Even though Paramount Pictures has made it possible for Transformers to come to life on the big screen, it’s safe to assume we’ll never see alien robots that can transform into vehicles standing in front of us. However, we’ll get the next best thing thanks to the magic of new virtual reality technology.
While we were on the set of Transformers: The Last Knight (check out our set visit report right here) with a group of press up in Michigan this past summer, directorMichael Bay revealed that he’s working on a Transformers VR project with IMAX and Industrial Light & Magic. So now the explosive action of Michael Bay andTransformers will be in your face closer than ever before.
Michael Bay has taken an interest in VR, but he hasn’t been impressed with the material out there for people to experience it, “There are all these companies building all this crap and there’s no content.” And when Michael Bay isn’t satisfied with something, he just has to make it better.
Initially, the plan for a Transformers VR project was going to be just three minutes, but Michael Bay wanted to go bigger: "They said three minutes. And I go, where are the rules? There are no rules. So I said, let’s do something like nine minutes, you know. And where it’s active and you got a little story. It’s fun. It’s not active the whole time. But you feel things coming right over you. You gotta duck."
However, what’s interesting about this Transformers VR project is that it won’t be an experience that you’ll be having inside of a home VR headset or by using your phone in a cardboard VR device, at least not at first. When discussing how IMAX is involved, Michael Bay mentioned a rather unique experience being crafted for theaters: "They’re gonna build pods in theaters around the world. There are all these massive theaters, but they don’t use every theater. So they’ll build like 30 pods."
So as far as we can tell, this Transformers VR project will hit theaters by way of pods being specifically built in some IMAX theaters. We’re not sure if his count of 30 pods means certain IMAX theaters will each be equipped with that many pods or if initially, there will only be 30 pods in general where people can experience Transformers VR, complete with a special headset being created just for this experience.
You might remember that IMAX announced this past fall the creation of theaters designed specifically for immersive cinema-like VR experiences. Some were supposed to be open before the end of the year, but we haven’t yet heard about any locations having them just yet. Since Michael Bay says that this set-up will be finished by May, is there a chance Transformers will be the first experience that IMAX will use to try their VR theaters out on consumers? IMAX has been a huge part of the production ofTransformers, so it would make sense.
With Transformers being such a huge global property, that would get plenty of people interested in the new technology, even if the theatrical experience is very isolated at first. Plus, after it hits theaters, Bay says the experience will be made available for home VR headsets as well, but there’s no indication as to how soon after its theatrical debut it will be available.
As for how they’re shooting it, Bay bought a special VR camera that he describes as “the best camera right now ’cause there’s no stitching involved.” That means they don’t have to take video from multiple cameras to digitally create a VR experience. The experience itself will be completely computer generated using the assets from the visual effects done for the movie, and it will have a higher resolution than what users get in a headset like the HTC Vive, one of the more expensive headsets on the market.
Even though this is being done with ties to Transformers, Bay indicates that he wanted to do it just because of his interest in the technology, “We’re doing it with Transformers stuff, but it’s just ’cause I wanna do it ’cause it’s fun.” There will be an original story involving Autobots and Decepticons, though specifics on what the experience might entail weren’t offered up specifically. But Bay did mention one element that will be part of the experience.
Bay says, “We got this great character called Cogman who’s a psychopath. He’s a proper-like butler.” Rumors have pegged Cogman as being a Transformer with a British accent whose vehicle mode is an Aston Martin. But while describing Cogman, Bay revealed that the character is a Headmaster, which is a kind of Transformer where “a binary-bonded partner or smaller Transformer serves as a head for the larger robot,” according to Transformers Wiki.
However, Bay goes on to say “You see him riding in a car.” Since Headmasters are smaller than the Transformers we’re used to seeing in the form of Optimus Prime or Bumblebee, I suppose it would make sense that he could be riding in a car. But I wonder if he’s talking about the Transformers VR experience being from inside of a car, and we see Cogman, who is supposed to be rather big, in action around us. We didn’t get any clarification on that matter while on set.
Assuming this Transformers VR project follows through, we’ll likely learn more about it as the release of Transformers: The Last Knight gets closer. If IMAX is getting involved by putting pods in theaters, we could be on the verge of a whole new way to experience filmmaking in theaters. After all, Alejandro González Iñárritu is working on an entire VR movie with ILMxLAB, so there could be big things on the horizon for VR and filmmaking.