Harry Potter VR
June 4, 2024
Case Study

Partner: Warner Bros.

Project: Harry Potter Wizards Take Flight & Chaos At Hogwarts

Directors: Anthony Batt & Luis Blackaller, Wevr

Wevr collaborated with Warner Bros. to create two groundbreaking location-based VR experiences, "Wizards Take Flight" and "Chaos at Hogwarts," exclusively available at the Harry Potter Store in New York City. These experiences immerse audiences in the magical world of Harry Potter, offering them the opportunity to wield magic firsthand and enjoy an authentic, interactive story that stays true to the original canon.

Experience Highlights:

Chaos at Hogwarts:

  • Starts in a replica of King's Cross station, where participants select character avatars and suit up with VR gear, including a voice-activated wand
  • Transitions into a virtual Platform 9 and 3/4s, where participants miss the Hogwarts Express and are apparate to Hogwarts by Dobby
  • Explore the castle, cast spells, and face creatures like pixies and a dragon
  • Multiple endings based on the group's spell-casting performance

Wizards Take Flight:

  • Participants control brooms by leaning left or right, mimicking the experience from the books and films
  • Help deliver a package for Hagrid by traveling through London and defending against Death Eaters
  • Physical stage mimics London's weather with rain and wind, perfectly timed with the virtual world

Creative Development: Anthony Batt, Luis Blackaller, and Chris DeFaria wrote the two interactive experiences, including all dialog, showcasing Wevr's creative skills in writing and directing a project for one of the world's most important media franchises. Our expertise ensured that the experiences remained authentic to the Harry Potter universe while providing an immersive and engaging interactive narrative for participants.

Production Highlights:

Unreal Engine Integration:

  • Unreal Engine played a crucial role in our development process, allowing us to rigorously test layout models, experiment with scale, and optimize performance to ensure a smooth and immersive multiplayer VR experience.
  • By leveraging Unreal Engine's capabilities, our team was able to meticulously analyze and fine-tune various aspects of the experience, such as pacing, action blocking, and real-time adjustments, directly within the virtual environment.
  • We developed a state-of-the-art live motion capture system by harnessing Unreal Engine's Live Link features. This powerful combination enabled us to seamlessly blend cinematic-quality character performances with interactive elements, resulting in a highly engaging and dynamic experience.
  • Unreal Engine served as the backbone for our interactive systems, empowering users to cast spells, participate in thrilling broom flight simulations, and experience immersive haptic feedback, all of which greatly enhanced the overall sense of presence and engagement within the virtual world of Harry Potter.

Art and Animation:

  • Character visual development and 3D design inspired by Harry Potter films and J.K. Rowling's books
  • We created several virtual twins of locations from the Harry Potter story world. This included the interior and exterior of Hogwarts, with detailed recreations of the Great Hall and the Gryffindor and Slytherin common rooms. We also designed new rooms and dungeons based on details from J.K. Rowling's writings and insights from the team.
  • The team created avatars and creatures, including life-sized digital versions of Death Eaters, Dobby the house-elf, Hagrid, and a Chinese Fireball dragon.
  • To ensure the authenticity of Dobby and Hagrid's characters, we meticulously compiled a comprehensive dialogue database encompassing every line of dialogue spoken by these beloved characters throughout the Harry Potter series. This exhaustive resource served as a guiding light, enabling us to faithfully capture their unique mannerisms, speech patterns, and distinct personalities, thus bringing them to life in a manner that remains unwaveringly true to the original source material.
  • To bring Dobby and Hagrid to life, we employed advanced motion capture and virtual production techniques, enabling our talented actors to immerse themselves in the roles and deliver authentic performances. By leveraging cutting-edge facial animation and motion capture technology, we were able to capture even the most subtle nuances and mannerisms of the characters, down to the finest detail. This meticulous approach allowed us to infuse an unprecedented level of realism and emotional depth into their virtual counterparts, greatly enhancing the overall sense of presence and believability within the digital world we created.

Interactive haptic creative systems developed for our project:

  • Guided flight system with an AI enabled battle system that adapts to players' flight and combat abilities
  • Walking redirect system that seamlessly transforms the castle around players as they move from room to room
  • Haptic feedback triggers, including audio events, misting, smells, and a physical cart, were extensively utilized in both experiences to enhance the emotional immersion of visitors. Over 150 haptic systems with DMX controllers were created and programmed into Unreal Engine for interactive events.
  • Voice-enabled spell casting was achieved through haptic wands and microphones. We aimed to make each visitor feel like a magical spell caster like Harry Potter. Thus, we developed a voice-activated system that triggered spells when specific words were spoken. 
  • Magical broom rigs were carefully created to offer visitors an authentic broom seating experience. The brooms had side-to-side and up-and-down motion capabilities that were controlled by the visitors' riding style, and they were all equipped with haptic feedback to enhance the battle flight simulation over London. To individualize the visitors' experiences, misting and variable air-flow systems were adjusted to each player's flight.

Wevr's creative and technical teams leveraged Unreal Engine to push the boundaries of VR entertainment, delivering unique, immersive experiences that allow Harry Potter fans to step into the magical world and interact with beloved characters and stories like never before. The company's ability to write, direct, and develop cutting-edge interactive experiences for such a significant media franchise demonstrates their exceptional creative and technical capabilities.

The sold-out launch of the VR experiences at the New York flagship store of Harry Potter demonstrates the power of immersive technology in creating unique and engaging experiences for fans and customers. By offering the first-ever VR experience to Harry Potter fans, the franchise generated significant buzz, increased foot traffic, and provided visitors with an unforgettable way to engage with the magical world of Harry Potter.