Abhi has always been driven by the desire to create cutting edge visual stories. He has experience writing for the stage and television and has also written and directed multiple short films. After trying his first virtual reality experience Abhi dedicated himself to creating VR content that would instil the same feeling of awe and wonder in audiences that he felt when he first tried VR. His latest project is The PhoenIX.
The PhoenIX is a CG cutting edge VR series with a complex narrative, truly cinematic 360 directing and innovative storytelling methods that fully leverage the medium of narrative VR. Like all good science fiction it not only entertains but holds up a mirror to society and asks deeper questions such as who we are as a race and where are we headed. Ultimately, the series is about unity, about how we need to come together to survive rather than stand apart.
The small and passionate team at Warrior9 VR created the series in VR, where they employed tools like Character Creator 3, iClone, Perception Neuron and Unreal Engine to not only provide the most visceral experience audiences could ever have but to also showcase the narrative potential of this brand new medium. This is science fiction like you have never seen before.
“With a team of 6 we were able to create high quality animated VR content and part of this is thanks to tools like Character Creator. “Abhi Kumar – Creative Director / Warrior9 VR
Q: Hello Abhi and the Warrior9 VR team! Kindly tell us more about your VR project The PhoenIX.
Hello! The PhoenIX is essentially a sci-fi animated series in stereoscopic 360 but to us, it is so much more. Our small and passionate team at Warrior9 VR wanted to create something unique and mind-blowing so we worked hard to push the boundaries of 360 storytelling and take users on the most visceral journey of their lives through this epic sci-fi saga.
The story follows the day-to-day lives of a group of warriors in the distant future, called The PhoenIX, who are ambushed by an unknown enemy and suddenly find the fate of humanity in their hands. In order to survive, they must come together and fight. Ultimately, it’s a show about unity, about how we need to come together to overcome our problems. This is science fiction like you have never seen before.
Q: The PhoenIX reminisces on so many of the sci-fi films and series we all loved. Please tell us a little on how you got the inspiration for all of this, and what motivated you to make this a VR experience.
I have always loved science fiction. It’s a genre which is only restrained by your imagination – in sci-fi anything is possible. Growing up I would consume it in any form I could – TV, movies, video games, comics, anything. So that’s why when you watch The PhoenIX you’ll see things that trigger memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Tron and so on. I took my favorite influences and have incorporated them into this series.
As to why we chose to do this series in VR, it happened pretty much right after I first tried the Oculus DK2 back in 2015. I thought sci-fi would be PERFECT for a medium like VR. When I was growing up, virtual reality was considered to be science fiction so it made perfect sense to pair the two together and just let our imagination run wild!
Q: For this project you utilized Character Creator 3, along with Perception Neuron motion capture suits with iClone and Unreal Engine. Tell us why you chose to adopt these tools, and what benefits/advantages you find in them?
The Warrior9 VR team is quite small and so we really needed a way to efficiently create good quality character models and animation on a limited budget. We didn’t have strong 3D character modeling skills internally at the start so we thought we could outsource this part. Ultimately we weren’t happy with the quality and we couldn’t justify the cost of it so we started looking at alternatives.
“That’s when we came across Character Creator and it was perfect to get us started. It allowed us to, very quickly, create unique and exciting looking characters for our series.”Abhi Kumar – Creative Director / Warrior9 VR
We also found that iClone had a plugin for the Perception Neuron mocap suits and decided to go ahead and use that functionality as well since it allowed us to see the characters in the modelled environments as we did the mocap and help the overall animation process.
As a small studio, we needed these kinds of tools to help us get started and really ignite the production process. Let’s be honest, nothing is perfect, it’s not like we didn’t have to troubleshoot or overcome any technical issues, but in the end, with a team of 6 we were able to create high quality animated VR content and part of this is thanks to tools like Character Creator.
Q: The PhoenIX is available on multiple headsets. Where can viewers experience this series? And what future projects can fans look forward to from the Warrior9 VR team?
We completed Season 1 of The PhoenIX, comprised of 6 episodes, in early 2020. We’re currently working on getting the full series out to people but if you have access to Amaze VR or VeeR apps on your VR headsets then you can see the first half of the series today. You can also check out our dedicated website and Facebook or follow Warrior9 VR on Instagram to keep up to date on releases.
At Warrior9 VR we work on narrative immersive experiences that have a deeper meaning or impact while still being entertaining and telling a good story. The PhoenIX, for example, is about unity. We want to start work on Season 2 (it’s scripted and ready!) but we do have a number of other experiences that we are releasing.
The tragedy of plastic pollution in our oceans is pretty important to us as we are scuba divers as well. We have created a number of interactive experiences on this topic:
- Our Ocean Life is an augmented reality portal experience available on iOS and Android stores.
- Oceans We Make is an interactive VR experience available on Steam and Oculus stores.
We’re looking to continue creating exciting narrative immersive experiences in the near future.