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Backlight, the French touch for virtual reality // LISAA Alumni

Co-founded eight years ago by a LISAA graduate in 3-D Animation, Backlight, a Parisian production company, has nine LISAA alumni in its team! For two years it has risen to the challenge of virtual reality.

From an animation studio to a production company

Created in 2008 by Jonathan Tamene, who graduated from LISAA in 2005 from the 3-D Animation course, and Frédéric Lecompte, the Backlight studio specialised from the beginning in 3-D animation and then rapidly diversified towards 2-D, motion design, special effects and finally post production.

Today Backlight studio has become Backlight, a production company, and nine LISAA alumni, who graduated between 2005 and 2015, have joined the team!

In 2010, Backlight became a partner of Total Immersion, a developer of augmented reality solutions for business, for which it creates content. Backlight has recruited a sound engineer for its team to develop its skills in augmented reality and interactivity, with the development of applications for communications professions.

Two years ago Backlight decided to launch its activity in virtual reality (VR), particularly in light of the democratisation of masks, and in particular the oculus rift.

A virtual reality adventure with Birdy Kind Land

A turning point in the studio’s history, the creation of the subsidiary Virtual by Backlight, dedicated to the creation of Virtual Reality (VR) and interactive experiences, was made official in 2014.

Virtual reality opened up new horizons to us and allowed us to use this new way of storytelling

Frédéric Cussey, production director and LISAA 2005 graduate in 3-D Animation

"This medium opened up new horizons to us and allowed us to use this new way of storytelling and to create 360 degree films", explains Frédéric Cussey, production director and 3-D Animation graduate from LISAA in 2005.

Backlight, which strongly believes in the potential of virtual reality, has developed its first creation: Birdy King Land. This three-minute sidecar race in a cartoon universe has been downloaded 50,000 times!

After being submitted to Oculus, which hosts and shares it, the demo met with real critical success and went viral, notably being tested by influential Youtubers such as Favij, Tartinex and even Pewdiepie, whose video was seen 7.5 millions times in 24 hours. All in all, Birdy King Land has become THE demo of reference for oculus owners—the first immersive experience midway between an animation film and a roller coaster.

The French Touch in Virtual Reality

In the wake of this, Backlight signed their first paid production for UIMM (Union of Metalwork Industries) followed by commissions from Point P, ART and the Merck laboratory.

Immersion in the cockpit of a racing car or of a fighter plane, in a human body on the tracks of a melanoma, teleportation into the air, personalisation of the interior of a house… these productions have brought new experiences to Backlight, whose recognisable signature makes them stand out from other virtual reality studios: an ever-present narrative dimension and strong art direction inspired by animation. Here again the French Touch hits the nail on the head, infused by French aesthetics and artistic diversity.

Backlight specialises in Immersive VR, integrating real time 3-D, which allows the user to interact with the environment in which they are moving through. For this, a tracking camera detects head movements and reproduces them in real time in the immersion. The more different senses are stimulated, the more the brain can enter into the immersion.

Rising to new challenges

In parallel to their activities in virtual reality, Backlight continues to capitalize on its other professions, such as animation and special effects. The team is currently working on a French-American production: a sci-fi film on virtual reality for which they are in charge of post production.

"From now on, we are positioning Backlight as a production company rather than a simple studio", explains Frédéric Lecompte, co-founder of Backlight. "We take part in all stages of production, from writing to post production — that’s why we have chosen to put the spotlight on independent directors on our website."

In the future, Backlight would like to direct itself towards the B to C market, the public. "The VR profession is brand new", explains Frédéric Cussey. "We work on lab projects, like immersive gameplay in public places (football at Parc des Princes), realistic immersive scenes in a vehicle (the passenger compartment of an Audi R8) or even immersive scenes to create spatial soundscapes (a camp in the Amazon rainforest in 1940). These projects have allowed the team to acquire new skills. We take risks that pay in the long run."

The year of 2016 is already proving to be profitable for Backlight, which would like to secure its position in terms of audio-visual production and also structure and develop its virtual reality activity. A new and significant challenge for the team!

To see a selection of photos of Backlight and VR, click on "see more photos".

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