Kyle Harrington of The Collegiate Gamer sat down with sophomore creative producing major Sho Shrock, co-president of the Chapman Virtual Reality Club, to learn about a new project coming out of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Oct. 28.
Q: Can you give a brief explanation of what this project is so anyone might know what they’re getting into?
A: ‘The Harvest’ is a holistic virtual reality Halloween experience. If you can picture a haunted house or a scary theme park ride, ‘The Harvest’ is pretty much exactly that, except that the core of the experience is in virtual reality. We will be converting the entire Digital Media Arts Center into a sort of venue where participants will get walked through a whole night of virtual scares.
The first part of the experience, what we like to call the “room-scale” portion, is an interactive experience where you get to investigate a creepy old barn and look for clues about a legendary farmer/murderer. All you have is a checklist and a dim lantern. In the end, you are caught and knocked out.
Participants then walk to the second part, which is a sit-down experience. This one picks up right where the room-scale experience left off. You are now tied to a chair and at the mercy of this sadistic farmer. If you want to be even more immersed, you will even have the option to actually get tied to your viewing chair.
Q: What projects have you guys done in the past and what has guided you to virtual reality?
A: Director Sam Wickert actually runs a popular YouTube channel called SoKrispyMedia with a fan base of roughly 350,000 subscribers. He has plenty of experience in virtual reality, 360 video and VFX from his past endeavors, and his expertise led to some pretty innovative production strategies for ‘The Harvest.’
Q: What started this project and who were the people involved?
A: This project pretty much started with Wickert’s idea to create an experience that revolved around tying the viewer to their chair. From there it was a matter of finding the right story and characters to fit the constraint. By the time we settled on the idea of featuring a farmer and a half-dead scarecrow man (you’ll have to watch the experience to know what that means), the project had already gotten a lot of attention from other students and faculty.
We assembled our team from all across Dodge College. We have graduate production designers, producers and cinematographers going into their senior year, and even alumni. The actor who plays the scarecrow and our stunt coordinator turned out to be Chapman alumni from 10 years ago. For post-production, we drew from skilled digital arts students, and eventually the entirety of Ruth Daly’s intermediate character animation class.
This project, we had the opportunity to work with Hollywood casting director David Rubin, and horror actor Brett Rickaby (‘Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462,’ ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’). I think this is something that is very rare for student productions and our whole team felt very lucky to have had the experience.
Q: What resources were available to you for this project made available by the school?
A: Dodge College was incredibly supportive once we showed the staff and faculty the potential of The Harvest, and of virtual reality as well. Many of the faculty, namely professors Bill Kroyer and Madeline Warren, jumped right in and shared their expertise and knowledge of the industry. Because of our tremendous support from the school, we were able to attract the attention of the tech company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), who had been looking to provide support for Chapman University for a while. With the school’s and AMD’s resources combined, we were able to make The Harvest a much larger scale project than what it could have been.
Q: Tell me about Chapman Virtual Reality Club and how students can use the resources within that to carry out projects like this.
A: Chapman Virtual Reality Club is meant to be the student-facing organization for virtual reality at the school. Faculty have been in talks to create formal classes and institutionalize the process for virtual reality, which is fantastic, but we think it is also necessary to have a space where students can collaborate and share ideas freely.
Chapman Virtual Reality Club is currently in the process of collecting pitch submissions for club virtual reality projects. Our goal is to engage as many students as possible with the new medium, and create exciting new pieces of content.
You can find more information on the The Harvest VR premiere event page.