Special format producer Charlotte Huggins helms new VR company AXYZ Studios to bring virtual reality (VR) content to theme parks

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“We're producing cinematic, virtual reality experiences for fun, thrills and immersive entertainment: pre-rendered, 360° shows 4-18 minutes long, for out-of-home venues.” -- Charlotte Huggins

Charlotte Huggins, Ryan Miziker, Sean Chung and Raj Deshpande will attend the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando with their new company, AXYZ Studios (pronounced “axis”), producers of scalable, virtual reality (VR) experiences tailored for theme parks and visitor attractions.

Huggins is well known in the themed entertainment space as a pioneering special venue producer of 3D content for theme parks, giant screen theaters in museums and science centers, and world expo pavilions. Some prominent work includes serving as VFX Producer on “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” for Disney, and as Producer on “3D Mania” and “Thrill Ride” for nWave Pictures. In the feature film world, her Producer credits include “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Journey to the Mysterious Island” (New Line/Warner Bros.) and “Metallica Through the Never” (Blackened/Picturehouse).

Current VR development is predominately tied to in-home use for social media and real-time gaming. “We're not going to do either of those,” says Huggins. “We're producing cinematic experiences for fun, thrills and immersive entertainment: pre-rendered, 360° shows 4-18 minutes long, for out-of-home venues.”

In order to further improve the quality of their cinematic VR experiences, AXYZ is currently developing a custom 360 camera system which will be more portable and easier to use for location based live-action photography, and will also help simplify the post production process.

AXYZ Studios is active within the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and a sponsor of TEA's booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo.

The AXYZ Studios team has embraced the challenge of innovating for out-of-home experiences in the new VR platform and already completed a library of five shows. Titles include "In the Tank" (in partnership with the Tennessee Aquarium), "Live from Compass Studios” (recording with Keb’ Mo and Alison Brown in Nashville in partnership with Compass), and "Flying over Los Angeles" (with Group 3 Aviation). They are working with top directors distinguished in special format cinema, including Bob Talbot (“Ocean Men: Extreme Dive”), Sean Casey (“Stormchasers”), and Sean Phillips (“Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure” for National Geographic Cinema Ventures).

“Today's VR technology has the speed, precision, detail, accuracy and robustness needed to deliver a quality guest experience in the demanding, 24/7 theme park environment,” says Chung. “And with players such as Google, Facebook and Sony Playstation investing billions of dollars, VR will only get better and more versatile.”

Applications of VR as seen by the AXYZ team include:

  • Dark rides and 4D theaters: VR will be used to refresh existing rides or be integrated into new attractions. The classic pre-show/main show/post-show format can apply. The VR world that guests experience through their headsets will be complemented by the physical ride environment and by in-theater effects. One difference to seeing the content in VR instead of on a theater screen, Chung points out, will be “that everyone has the best seat in the house.”
  • Roller coasters and hard rides: Integrating VR with a new or existing thrill ride is already being tested. “With Hollywood style cinematic visuals, AXYZ will increase the emotional and physical impact of the experience,” says Huggins.
  • Scalable motion-based experiences: “Footprint doesn't matter,” says Chung. “No matter how small the actual physical space, AXYZ will deliver a giant, immersive VR experience.”

Sister company to AXYZ Studios is Pulseworks, a leading manufacturer of motion ride systems and digital content for media-based attractions. The two companies share technology and resources, and Deshpande is a principal of both. “This is absolutely the time and the team for producing VR to deliver the next generation of media-based guest experiences,” he says. We're very enthusiastic about this venture.”

For more information or to set up a meeting with AXYZ Studios at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, contact Vacheh Shahmoradian, vacheh(at)axyzstudios.com, +1-310-980-4020.

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