Ready Player One was well designed and beautiful to look at – though who made sure the style was precise and contained? Did VR have an impact? Adam Stockhausen, award winning production designer, got his hands dirty and roped up the sets for the film, with some interesting tidbits on the side.

For background, you may know Adam Stockhausen for winning the Academy Award for Best Production Design for the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel. And considering the Grand Budapest Hotel had a style which many adored, it was a deserved win. (Adam also assisted Wes Anderson with a number of other movies including Moonrise Kingdom and the recently released Isle of Dogs). So, props to him, he is a rad guy for his designs, and I wished I asked more about his inspirations when designing.

Anyway, since the OASIS is based on a VR world, Steven Spielberg thought it necessary to let his actors experience the sensation of walking around using some VR tech. According to VRScout, Spielberg said the following:

You have to understand that we made the movie in an abstract set. The only way the cast had a chance to understand where they were – we all had virtual reality Oculus goggles. Inside the goggles was a complete build of the set that you [see in] the movie. When you took the goggles off, it was a bit white space. It was a 4,000 square foot empty space called a volume. When you put the goggles on, it was Aech’s basement, or Aech’s workshop, or the Distracted Globe [club]. So the actors had a chance to say, ‘OK, if I walk over there, there’s the door. There’s the DJ.’ It was really an out of body experience filming this movie. It’s very hard to really express what that was like.”

Now this of course helped the actors move around; but it also helped designers make their virtual world and test it out, as Adam stated during our interview. What better way of immersing actors in a virtual world than having a world to roam in? And better, Adam get to try out these words during each step of production. Walk around, make adjustments, rinse and repeat.

Half the sets were traditional; the stacks and the 101 building were both real locations shot on set. Yet for many sets with that first basis, this then transferred towards a digital space. And yes, this did mean a VR set was worn when wandering around a set to ensure it all worked well, oiled up and ready for use.

What personally impressed me was the rapid development due to the speed of production. With production houses on both sides of the globe, it let the team accelerate new ideas as they come in red-hot from the director. The throne scene was the excellent example of this, as it was a shotgun idea from Spielberg as a final test for Parzival during the film. It was then made over a weekend for it to then be shot, which blew my mind personally due to its speed. Adam assisting with this was a true showing of his talent.

Much of this would have been done through intense research, and I was impressed with Adam working so closely with his team on these projects. I am keen to see what he does next.

Ready Player One is in cinemas now.

Tom Ffiske
Twitter: @TomFfiske
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