When the first issue of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s graphic novel series Locke & Key hit stores on February 2008, it sold out in a single day. So it should come as no surprise that the launch of the best-seller’s audio version is pulling out all the stops. Not only does it boast a voice cast including Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, and special appearances by Hill, Rodriguez, Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black) and more, but now fans will be able to experience the story in 360 degrees.
Amazon’s Audible and digital creative agency Firstborn created an immersive Locke & Key virtual reality experience for New York Comic Con, and now the YouTube 360 version is offering it up to fans everywhere else. “From the beginning, Locke & Key was conceived to truly immerse listeners in the terrifying world created in the graphic novels, thanks to a cast of highly skilled actors, a soundscape that envelops you from all sides, and an original musical score, the audio drama succeeds in doing just that,” says Audible SVP Global Brand Marketing Barbara Ward Thall. “Given the 360-degree sound design, we thought it only made sense to bring a scene from Locke & Key to life in VR. The fact that the audio drama was scheduled to launch the same week as NY Comic Con gave us the perfect opportunity to share this ambitious and exciting creation with some of its most ardent fans.”
Although Firstborn was one of the first to combine live action and cinematic CGI in virtual reality, this project was its first all-CGI VR experience. “To actually transport fans into the beloved graphic novel, there were visual and narrative constraints that we had to follow to make sure we were staying true to the series,” says Firstborn VP of content development Seth Tabor. “Our greatest challenge was truly capturing Rodriguez’s artistic style to ensure that when fans strapped on the headset they felt like they were actually transported to the grounds of Locke House. Once we established the visual authenticity we needed, we then had the creative freedom to play up the immersive nature of the experience like incorporating a butterfly flitting by to draw your eyes across the 360-degree environment.”
Thall hopes the VR experience may convince people to give the audio version a try. “Audible fans already know is that listening to a great story ignites your imagination and transports you to another place in your mind,” says Thall. “But for people who might not necessarily see themselves as ‘audiobook’ listeners and haven’t experienced it themselves, we wanted to use VR to offer a taste of what it’s like to be surrounded by a great story. You’ll be seeing more original and innovative audio entertainment like Locke & Key from us in the future.”