New Reality Co. Builds Award-Winning VR Experience Using Helix Core

New Reality Co. assembled a team of artists, designers, engineers, and technicians to build their immersive, award-winning cinematic virtual reality experience – Tree.

Tree transports viewers into one of the tallest and most majestic trees in the Peruvian rainforest and weaves a story for social change. To create their virtual reality experience and conservation project, they chose Helix Core, the lightning-fast version control system from Perforce.

Perforce’s strength is that it runs in the background

and is reliable. It's like a force. It seamlessly integrates so you don't notice it, but it's connecting everything.”

 

Making the Sundance Film Festival Deadline

Sundance 2017 was only two months away when New Reality Co. started constructing Tree. Along with meeting an aggressive deadline, this conservation VR project needed to spark conversations about critical environmental issues. The goal was to have participants feel the effects of climate change – the wind, the heat – and see the effects on their surroundings.

Placing the audience in a seedling, they grow into a towering Kapok tree in the Amazon Rainforest. As the tree branches flourish, the user experiences the impacts of global climate change all around them. The floor and vest vibrations, wind and heat simulation, custom scent track, and the awe-inspiring visuals come together to bring this social issue and story to life.

Finding a Solution for Collaboration Complexities

To make their premiere deadline, New Reality Co. coordinated a diverse team, in both geography and skill sets. Blending different studios with over 100 contracted artists and engineers, they looked to create high-quality visuals and robust functionality on tight timeline.

They wanted to merge the strengths of video game and commercial/film VFX houses, and harness them for VR. To accomplish this, they needed a flexible system that could enhance collaboration around the globe. But they also needed a system that could support a variety of file types and several iterations.

KonVRge Entertainment (an interactive game and VR studio) handled the nuts and bolts of engine integration. They were the primary integrators for all digital assets. Other studios – such as Milk VFX, Rewind, Decochon, and Underscore – were tasked with creating leaf cutter ants, parrots, and flourishing leaves and branches.

Implementing "smart flocking behavior” and designing the actual tree rig to maneuver in real-time were critical to bringing the story to life. Managing all these moving parts and a wide variety of files formats – Maya, C4D, Houdini, Adobe Suite – for eventual integration with Unreal Engine (UE4) was a monumental task.

Winslow Porter, Co-Founder of New Reality Co. and Director of Tree, explains, “One of the main challenges was making sure multiple people could effectively work on the project at the same time. The project needed to be successfully handed off to team members in different parts of the globe, without issue.”

Eliminating Checkout Confusion With Helix Core

In the beginning, New Reality Co. looked to their team to recommend a version control system. Open sourced solutions lacked the visibility for contributors to efficiently work on the same scenes. And creating an interactive experience meant versioning more than just code. Misplaced assets and varying versions led to confusion amongst collaborators – as well as a multitude of problems.

Work was lost because of miscommunication. Teams were checking files in and out, and they could not see what other people were working on. Overwriting changes caused delays. For a global team hoping to make a premiere, they needed to quickly and seamlessly integrate changes without worry.

When New Reality Co. started collaborating with experienced VFX studios, they discovered a solution that could streamline their pipeline. “We had lost a lot of time and files with some other versioning software before we found Perforce,” Winslow explains.

Development Enhancements Using the Gaming Industry Standard

Selecting the right version control system for such an expansive team and complex project was a critical decision. After hearing the benefits from KonVRge, a long-standing Perforce customer, it made sense for New Reality Co. to adopt Perforce, too.

“We had been working with creative coders and gaming enthusiasts who had their own solutions like GitHub and SVN. But once we started working with AAA game companies and major VFX shops, they all used Perforce as the standard.” – Winslow Porter

With Perforce, different studios were now able to work on files independently of each other. Exclusive file-locking capabilities ensured that people around the globe could work on different aspects of the same scene without impacting each other.

Using Helix Visual Client (P4V), team members could easily see who was making edits to what part of a file. No matter the file format, teams always knew they had the latest version. Now they could quickly push and pull seemingly infinite updates. Having a reliable and high-performing version control system enhanced collaboration, saving the team precious hours.

Helix Core was able to connect all of the VR components and integrate them into New Reality Co.’s custom UE4 pipeline. Having a fast and reliable version control system helped speed up iteration cycles. With Sundance looming, co-founders Milica Zec and Winslow Porter could spend less time worrying about workflows, instead focusing on publicizing their project.

Less time worrying. More time innovating. This is why 19 of the top 20 game development studios choose Perforce for version control.

Helix Core: One Solution to Support Your Entire Team

Built-in plugins and integrations, plus support for Unreal Engine (UE4), meant New Reality Co. could support everyone on their team – from developers to designers. Teams were able to collaborate closely to make the tree rig more robust, optimize lighting and textures, and add animal interactions.

“In a world of unknowns, Perforce is a known, helping us spend more time creating and less time worrying about organizing. We want Perforce to be the backbone as we continue to grow.” - Winslow Porter

Once Helix Core was implemented, Tree could be successfully handed off to team members in different parts of the globe without issue. Gone were the sleepless nights worrying about files getting overwritten or misplaced. Teams were excited to have a solution that worked. Even people who were newer to game engine versioning found the system easy to use.

With everything up and running, New Reality Co. could rapidly push their creative and development pipelines. According to Winslow, “Helix Core is a robust tool that always had our back. It’s hard to imagine using anything else after you’ve been using it. Once everyone was familiar with the work flow, there were literally zero issues.”

Taking VR to New Heights

Since its debut at Sundance 2017, New Reality Co. has continued using Perforce. Tree has gone on to win seven awards, and continues to be shown around the globe. With showings at over 50 festivals and conferences – including Sundance, Tribeca, TED, and the World Economic Forum – Tree is leaving an impression.

Once the headset is on, all the components come together. Viewers often walk away from the headset overwhelmed. Interacting with the environment brings the forest to life – climate change has never felt so personal.

What’s Next for New Reality Co.?

Tree is just the start of championing social causes through immersive experiences. New Reality Co.’s goal goes beyond traditional VR. Getting their work in front of VR enthusiasts, politicians, world leaders, and cultural influencers is the next step.

“We want to show our projects to as many people in the world as we can, while also making sure that key policy makers are impacted as well.” - Winslow Porter