Trinity

by UNLTD
The studio
Deep roots help filmmakers reach new heights

Under a canopy of trees on Parthenais street in Montreal’s hip Plateau district, a master tinkerer and a successful film executive have combined to create a new kind of independent VR studio. 

John Hamilton and Sébastien Gros formed Unlimited (UNLTD) with the intention of setting a new standard for interactive cinema.  

They are far from 20-something creators parlaying their videogame experience into VR. These passionate, if somewhat grizzled, industry vets bring steadiness and years of filmmaking craft to the table. “It’s not our first rodeo,” says Hamilton, ex-president of eOne, Canada’s largest film distributor. “By putting quality first, we’re doing our part to ensure VR doesn’t lose momentum.” 

Founders Sébastien Gros, CTO and John Hamilton, CEO

Founders Sébastien Gros, CTO and John Hamilton, CEO

UNLTD raised $1.5M for production of its first original project, Trinity, which followed the success of branded experiences built for Universal Pictures (Fifty Shades Darker) and A&E Networks (Fall into Me).

The project
The tail wagging the dog

Trinity is the pilot episode for a VR series set in a future where humans have long been extinct and androids are fighting a final war against an all-powerful AI. 

Hamilton’s premise was amped up by writer Randoll Lobb and director Patrick Boivin, and is meant to appeal to a broad audience. “Usually VR is used to market films, but we want to do the reverse,” explains Hamilton. UNLTD’s goal is to sign a studio deal and generate games, TV and more films from their idea. 

Line Producer Viktor Mara (center) and Director Patrick Boivin (left, in costume) line up a shot on set in Prague, Czech Republic.

Line Producer Viktor Mara (center) and Director Patrick Boivin (left, in costume) line up a shot on set in Prague, Czech Republic.

“People who love Star Wars should like this,” states co-producer Robert Boulos. He’s not wrong, as the film is seductively immersive, featuring not only arresting actors and production design, but a giant metallic dragon, as detailed as in any sci-fi movie.  

Watch Trinity's trailer
The reveal
Hacking their way to perfection

“The 10-minute Trinity experience is smooth, running 90 frames per second on Rift and Vive, and it only requires a 1080 NVIDIA graphics card. We’re proud of that,” continues Gros, who was also the director of photography (DoP). “We needed to maintain a stable frame rate for users to enjoy themselves.”

To ensure they used their budget efficiently, director Boivin insisted they film rehearsals in normal 2D film to edit the story, and prep as much as possible before the 360 VR shoot. Locations were scouted in Prague, where they found a vast "post-apocalyptic" warehouse for cheap.

The team innovated on set by combining different software and hardware solutions. “Actors were shot using an array of Kinects on top of their custom camera rig to capture the Z-depth data,” says Gros. 

 

Getting to the point cloud

Working with colleagues Hugues Bruyère and Nicolas Roy from Dpt, who were involved in the Unity development of the project from the early stages of production, volumetric capture of the shooting environments and actors was achieved using tools such as DepthKit. Unity was then employed to merge all of the elements together and render them in real time as a point cloud volumetric visualization. “This is where the real tinkering came into play,” says Dpt’s Bruyère.

UNLTD also leaned on experts in post-production for help: fellow Quebec studios Frima, and Audio Z. Natalie Girard, an ILM-trained VFX supervisor, ensured the realism of the dragon – and there were at least four versions.

A point cloud drives transitions between scenes

A point cloud drives transitions between scenes

Final touches were perfected in Unity with the Post-Processing Stack for effects. “Did you know the blacks are different from Vive to Rift?” asks Gros. Thanks to the color-correction capability, the DoP was able to tweak colors for each platform.

In the end, the sweat equity and combined experience of veterans Hamilton, Gros, Boulos and visionary director Boivin not only secured impactful results for Trinity, but also delivered a solid experience that stands up for VR at large.

Unity’s features for groundbreaking VR helped drive Trinity’s success.

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