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Nexus and Google team up for ‘Back to the Moon’

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Nexus Studios, in collaboration with Google Doodles, Google Spotlight Stories, Google Arts & Culture, and Cinémathèque Française have been working hard on the creation of the first-ever Virtual Reality (VR) / 360° interactive Doodle. Launched today, the piece is a celebration of the life and work of the hugely influential illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès, May 3rd being the release date of À la conquête du pôle (The Conquest of the Pole, 1912), largely considered to be among his greatest masterpieces.

Working with director Fx Goby and Doodler project art lead Hélène Leroux, to create the piece Nexus have again teamed up with prior Google Spotlight Stories collaborators Jan Pinkava and Karen Dufilho (Rain or Shine).

Like immersive theatre observes everything from certain point of view, we wanted to embrace and enhance that by creating a round stage and a changing set which surrounds us.
We took elements from Méliès films, the storytelling style, the characters and the special effects, and tried to replicate some of that in our experience. We reference and use his rich colour palette used to paint over his black and white films.
Méliès is also a comedian, acting in all his films; I ended up miming a lot for the animators to work from, so I imagine there is a little bit of me in Méliès’ virtual body language.
Being able to work on Méliès and his films with the people that know him the most (Cinematheque Francaise) was incredible. Being able to see,touch and observe the very objects he used in his own films, andaving access to his personal drawings, the sets he was designing and the costumes he was wearing was a huge privilege,and very inspiring to feel so close to him.

-Fx Goby, director

Moon designs by Hélène Leroux (Courtesy of Nexus Studios)

The creative and technical ambition of the Doodle were huge. The Doodle was made to be experienced across five different platforms;here are five acts to the show, and each act has its own light and mood. We combined what we’d already learned from the Spotlight family and previous Spotlight films as well as the technical approaches used on Pearl, Gorillaz, and Son of Jaguar. We tried to push what is possible, in terms of multiple lighting and mood changes,and an animated set and characters, without actually having any lighting in the show. The quality of the animation is exceptional of course and a continuation of the standard we are used to seeing within Google Spotlight stories.

Staging plan by Hélène Leroux (courtesy of Nexus Studios)

In VR, creators have to give up control of the camera. The audience is able to look anywhere, at any time.
With the Google Spotlight Stories tech, we’re able to control the story with an adaptive real time game engine. We know where the audience is looking and can place action or important story beats in front of them, or we can delay those beats until the viewer is looking.
An exciting element for us is pushing, and being encouraged to push the limitations of the GSS software, and collaborating with Google to make those outer limits broader.

-Mark Davies and Dave Hunt, technical leads

The full Google Doodle VR experience can be viewed as a 360° video on the Google Spotlight Stories YouTube Channel, while the more immersive experience is available on mobile, Cardboard, or Daydream through the Google Spotlight Stories app, available on Google Play and the App Store.

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