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Sky and Jaunt team up to deliver immersive Hobbit fun on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard

Sky and Jaunt have produced an immersive Middle Earth experience to celebrate The Battle of Five Armies, which hits cinemas this December. 

The cinematic VR clip was shot on location at the Hobbiton set near Matamata in New Zealand, a week before the London premiere of what’s being called Peter Jackson’s last Tolkien film. 

The 90-second clip sees Gandalf wandering through the rural idyll of the Shire, setting off fireworks in a manner similar to how Sir Ian Mckellen's character does in the first Lord of the Rings flick. 

Sky and Jaunt team up to deliver Hobbit immersive experience on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard
Can't afford the plane fare to New Zealand? No problem.

Stuart Murphy, Sky’s director of entertainment channels said: “The latest cinematic VR production takes thing up a notch or two. Using the strength of our relationships with studio partners, we were able to put a call into our great friends at Warner Brothers to get Jaunt exclusive access to The Hobbit set in New Zealand.  

“As a result, we’ve collectively been able to work together to create a 90 second clip of Middle-earth from the film, all in jaw dropping cinematic VR.” 

As well as being one of the better VR demos we’ve had eyes-on time with - there was plenty of rich foreground detail such as swaying ferns and blades of grass - the footage demonstrates how quickly Jaunt can turn around immersive experiences. 

Sky and Jaunt team up to deliver Hobbit immersive experience on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard
Oculus Thrift: Jaunt's VR experiences work just as well on phones

The footage was all shot on Jaunt’s 360 degree camera rig in New Zealand just over a week ago before being edited in California. The immersive experience was showcased at the world premiere of The Battle of Five Armies last night, showcase on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard headsets. 

Sky invested in Jaunt last year, ploughing $350,000 (£222,700) into the California-based company. 

Since then the company has produced a number of technical demos including a Toy Story meets The Wrong Trousers-style race around a living room on a model train set and an immersive Paul McCartney concert experience. 

Jaunt’s VR experiences also feature directional sound, meaning if you turn your head to the left, away from the main action, sound in your left earphone will fade accordingly. 

Sky and Jaunt team up to deliver Hobbit immersive experience on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard
Peer into the future - or a mythical fantasy past in this case.

We tried out the Hobbiton experience on both an Oculus Rift and a Google Cardboard headset using a Nexus 5 and found that there was barely any difference in visual quality. If you've not got the kind of cash to hand for an Oculus, you can snap up an Archos VR unit for £25, or simply make your own Cardboard headset

The cinematic VR footage – which was shot in New Zealand, edited in California, and will be showcased in London tonight – has been turned around in less than a week, which is some effort from all involved.

If you’ve got Google Cardboard or an Archos VR headset and a compatible phone you can download the Paul McCartney experience from Google Play right now

It’s not yet known when you’ll be able to download the Middle Earth experience from Google Play.  

Update: The jury's still out on whether you'll be able to try out this VR experience for yourself, but a Sky spokesperson has told us that everyone involved is working on it. The spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with Jaunt and Warner Bros to see how we can make this great piece of content available through Google Play.”

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