Fox and director Ridley Scott are increasingly dipping their toes into virtual reality—and that’s good news for science fiction and horror fans. Today, Fox is launching a new virtual reality experience for Oculus Rift called Alien: Covenant In Utero that lets users see the world through the eyes of a newly hatched neomorph alien.
Those neomorphs–not the xenomorphs of past Alien movies but an entirely new breed of icky genetically engineered science fiction monster–are at the center of this virtual horror show. In Utero isn’t a game, but more of a virtual reality short film where participants are put into the neomorph’s point of view during a crucial part of the upcoming Alien sequel.
David Karlak, In Utero’s director, says the short is about “how a neomorph would perceive the world–a creature engineered through an evil version of Mother Nature to be a hunter.” According to Karlak, Alien: Covenant director Scott contributed significantly to the look and feel of the virtual reality experience. Scott even weighed in on whether a neomorph in virtual reality should have a heartbeat (it should, but only a faint one) and recommended looking at crocodiles as a source of inspiration.
Turning a science fiction franchise into a virtual reality experience also requires departures from the movie. Matthias Whittmann, a VR-VFX supervisor at Technicolor’s MPC, which worked on this project, noted that what works in a movie won’t necessarily work in a virtual reality setting. A chase scene in a movie, for instance, would disorient a user wearing a virtual reality headset. “You have to think about what you keep in virtual reality and what you discard,” he adds.
Alien: Covenant In Utero also plays into Fox’s larger strategy of promoting their properties using emerging virtual reality tech. Fox worked on the Alien project with Scott’s RSA Films, which launched a virtual reality section earlier this year. Fox and RSA previously worked together on a virtual reality project for The Martian.
A group inside Fox called Fox Next worked on both projects. One of Fox’s partners on the project, AMD, is also taking the virtual reality project (and Oculus Rifts to experience them on) to movie theaters across the country as well.
The experience is launching on the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR today (April 26), and will be available for Google Daydream View, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR when the film is released on May 19.
Fox Next’s next VR project? A VR experience for the next Planet of the Apes film.