- photo courtesy of Slashgear.com
– photo courtesy of Slashgear.com

Weta Digital has been nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-time Project by the Visual Effects Society for the virtual reality demo “The Hobbit: A Thief in the Shadows.”  The virtual reality (VR) experience,  a collaboration between Weta Digital, Epic Games, NVIDIA and Oculus is designed to let someone wearing the PC headsets for gamers to take Bilbo’s place as he first encounters Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) in his lair.

How cool is that? Pretty cool according to Chris Burns at slashgear.com who described his demo of the demo in an article on slashgear.com in March of 2016:

“WETA Digital have created an experience which fulfills – or perhaps teases – the dreams of Tolkien fans for generations. Here we’re allowed to enter Middle Earth – in one of the most visually daunting places we could hope to go…I know dragons aren’t real. I knew this experience wasn’t real. But when a full-sized Smaug came suddenly overhead, my senses reacted – my body lurched. I gasped in spite of myself”

Sadly, for those of us who are now chomping at the bit (and checking our wallets) to find out how and where to gear up for this, the VR experience is currently only in demo form with no plans announced to-date to take it commercial. Still, to be nominated for an award for something that is currently only in demo form? One can only hope that it inspires Weta Digital to seriously consider it (heavy hints here).

Hobbit Smaug PosterGetting back to the topic of the award, Alasdair Coull and Daniel Smith of Weta Digital, and Nick Donaldson and Tim Elek of Epic Games, are the named nominees for “The Hobbit: A Thief in the Shadows” in the Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Tim Project category. According to the Visual Effects Society:

“Real-Time Projects, for the purposes of these Awards, are defined as projects that are generated through a CG rendering engine at the same time the audience experiences them.”

“The Hobbit: A Thief in the Shadows” is up against five other Real-Time Projects including Halo 5: Guardians and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Weta Digital has also been nominated for an award in the Photoreal Features (live action) category for the Vin Diesel movie “Furious 7.” The 14th Annual VES Awards will be held in Beverly Hills on February 2, 2016. Best of luck to the Weta Digital nominees!!

For more information about the awards ceremony and a complete list of categories and nominees, visit the Visual Effects Society website here.

Update (2/3/16): the VES awards were held last night, February 2, 2016. The award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project went to “The Order: 1886,” a Sony Computer Entertainment action-adventure game for PlayStation 4. Congratulations to all the winners of the evening, listed here on the VES website!