How Marvel Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, and the Technology Innovation Group at Disney Studios Content brought the ‘Eternals: AR Story Experience’ to life

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Dec 9, 2021

Step inside the film — with Sprite, an Eternal, as your guide. Go on an epic Augmented Reality adventure through time and space to discover the truth about humanity. Enter the world, learn the backstory, and meet the characters, in Marvel Studios’ first Immersive Story Experience. This mini prequel lets you explore the story like never before and become a part of the action.

Marvel Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, and the Technology Innovation Group at Disney Studios Content have teamed up to bring the Eternals to your living room through an exciting augmented reality experience.

Industrial Light & Magic is thrilled to announce an exciting partnership with Disney’s Technology Innovation Group on Marvel Studios’ Eternals: AR Story Experience for the iPhone® and iPad®. In this augmented-reality app, the characters, world, and stories of the Eternals film have been brought to life like never before.

“I was so excited to get the call to come work on the Eternals: AR Story Experience,” said Danielle Legovich, Visual Effects Producer at ILM’s London studio. “What I found wonderful throughout the process was the incredible collaboration with the team at Disney, along with all of the content creators on the project. They were all such lovely people, and we were able to combine talent in such a profound way. With Disney coming from that background of games and apps, and ILM coming from the visual effects point of view—and having worked on a large portion of the Eternals film—it made for a really wonderful partnership. At ILM, we’re used to creating images that people view in a darkened cinema, so to be able to work on images that people would then bring into their home through AR was so much fun. The experience became so immersive for me personally during the creative process, that I would imagine this Deviant just exploding up from my kitchen floor. I really loved that.”

Film-quality VFX assets used in the app. Image courtesy of Disney Studios Content / Marvel Studios.

As you might expect, what makes this experience so incredibly unique is the augmented reality aspect. You’re able to literally step into that world and meet these characters without having to leave your home. That level of detail brought a host of exciting challenges. Edmund Kolloen, Computer Graphics Supervisor on the project, goes on to explain, “What was thrilling for me was trying to get the same quality that we would push out of a final render, and get that to look and act the same in a real-time application. The challenge, of course, was getting that data from our render package and pushing it to the pipeline at Disney. There was a lot of really great cross-collaboration on both sides, building it as we went along. The results were amazing. You can walk right up and have a look at these characters, because they’re the exact same digi-doubles from the film. We worked diligently to ensure that every facial expression and every emotion comes through.”

Recording actress Lia McHugh using over 100 cameras. Image courtesy of Disney Studios Content / Marvel Studios.

On the Disney front, the Technology Innovation Group developed a host of new cutting-edge tools and techniques during the iterative process of translating that data from ILM. Evan Goldberg, Manager, Technology Innovation Research at Disney Studios Content recounts, “We had a small but mighty team here at Disney to put this project together. Daniel Baker was the Producer, and was the beating heart and metronome of the project. I’ve been here at Disney for sixteen years, with a history of feature film production, animation, and VFX experience. My role on this project straddled the line between Tech Supervisor and VFX Supervisor. Both my team and Industrial Light & Magic really wanted to come from a place of authenticity for the experience, and to be as faithful as we could to the source material. When you see a still from the AR experience, it should feel like a still from the film, and we were able to do that by working directly with ILM. They were very open to adapting their pipeline to conform to what we needed on our end. That allowed us to collaborate more quickly, and make something that had a visual fidelity on par with the film, but rendered in a fraction of a second. It was so incredible to see new technologies born out of that process.”

Pre-visualization of in-app scene. Image courtesy of Disney Studios Content / Marvel Studios.

With all of the innovation, the teams still had a daunting undertaking. They had to create a cinema-quality AR experience, and one that would carry the Marvel Studios name on top of it. “We knew that we had to match the quality of what people see in the cinema,” explains Daniel Baker, Senior Producer and Manager, Technology Innovation at Disney Studios Content. “The iterative design process with ILM was so helpful, because it ensured that we were always working with the latest assets. The pre-visualization work, along with that review and iteration process, was really exciting. Since we were working from home, and across multiple time zones, we had to really make the most with the time we had. So to get everyone to go out into their backyard to play with the experience, and really give it that high level of scrutiny and pixel-by-pixel accuracy, was a lot of fun.”

Kolloen summarizes the overall Eternals: AR Story Experience perfectly, “one of the exciting things for me was to see the Deviants in that augmented reality environment. Nothing prepares you for the moment you walk outside with your iPad® and see this creature that’s the size of your house.”