2016 was a peak year for virtual reality hype. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were released in Q2 of that year, and in Q3 The Void opened their Ghostbusters experience at Madam Tussaud's in New York. Universal Orlando Resort designed an ambitious experience called The Repository as their first public venture into premium location-based VR. I was hired at Universal Creative in July 2016, and development of The Repository was already underway.
The Repository was a family-friendly puzzle horror experience in three parts:
Development of The Repository was a collaboration between VR vendor VRCade, consultants as NBCUniversal Media Labs, and multiple departments at Universal Orlando Resort. We used VRCade's experimental wireless headset, which was pretty cool although the headset was later discontinued. Designed as a multi-modal immersive theater experience and billed at a premium $50 per ticket, The Repository was able to generate some significant press buzz, and was a huge operational learning experience for Universal's Creative, Operations, Entertainment, and Marketing teams.
Universal's marketing trailer for The Repository
As a brand new employee and first-time VR user, my primary contribution to The Repository at first was to ask a bunch of questions and learn as much as possible from everyone on the team. I started contributing more substantially during operation.
As The Respository was about to close, my manager proposed to me that we should try to document this experience as thoroughly as possible while it was still standing. We discussed photogrammetry as an option, and after running some tests of different pipelines I came back with a plan to do a photogrammetry capture of the entire Repository soundstage using RealityCapture.
Our final plan was a three-way collaboration between Universal Creative, Universal Pictures, and Canon. We shot the photos on various Canon cameras for evaluation, on separate SD cards for each room. I then ran each SD card through RealityCapture and stitched the rooms back together in Unity to create a full VR walkthrough of the set.
One of the rooms of the Repository's immersive theater set, as rendered in my VR walkthrough