The rapid rise of Felix & Paul Studios is best illustrated by the growing prowess and sophistication of its cutting-edge virtual reality projects. Founded in Montreal in 2013 by directors Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël and producer Stéphane Rituit, the company has gone from producing a simple 360-degree video in 2014 that put viewers in the same room with a man singing and playing piano (“Strangers”) to its new VR documentary that puts them underwater, in the cockpit of a T-38 supersonic jet and within 20 feet of a Space X rocket as it launches (“Space Explorers: A New Dawn”).

As the rocket shot was captured, “part of camera cover melted, but that was its purpose,” says Felix & Paul Studios CTO Sebastian Sylwan. “The core of the camera [next to the rocket] was protected.” Today, Felix & Paul has 65 employees spread across offices in Montreal and Santa Monica, and a slate of 35-plus projects in development that range from collaborations with rappers Drake and Eminem to an untitled VR series described as an underwater “Game of Thrones.” “We’re making seven to 10 projects a year — some one-offs, some episodic — which is on pace with a real mini-major studio,” says Felix & Paul’s Santa Monica-based chief content officer Ryan Horrigan.

Felix & Paul’s rapid rise can be attributed in part to the growth of VR industry itself, which is projected to generate more than $15 billion in revenue in 2018, nearly double what it did last year. But there’s something more.

Lajeunesse and Raphaël were film students at Concordia University in Montreal at the same time, but they didn’t get to know each other until after college, when they joined forces to co-direct a low-budget ($500) animated music video fashioned from public domain Soviet propaganda footage for Montreal-based electronic musician Akido’s song “Les Humains,” which was released in 2004. “The concept of co-directing was foreign and not something we wanted to do,” says Raphaël, “but we kept booking projects as a duo and after a couple of years we were really only working together.” Lajeunesse and Raphaël went on to helm music videos for bands such as Mobile and Young Galaxy and commercial spots for brands including Adidas, Coca-Cola and Volkswagen.

It was lucrative work, but they felt unfulfilled by the fast-paced, quick-cut projects, and they began shifting their focus to large-scale immersive installations such as the Canada Pavilion at the World Exposition Shanghai 2010, created in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. The duo dreamed of finding a way to create immersive experiences that could be viewed anywhere and everywhere, and the dream became a reality when Raphaël showed Lajeunesse the first version of the Oculus Rift VR developer’s kit headset that he purchased via its Kickstarter campaign in early 2013. Read more from variety.com…

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