This article explores the production and creative journey behind THE INFINITE, an immersive experience, which combines innovation, collaboration, and international outreach. Written by Lynne Faubert as part of the INNOVATION AND COLLABORATION press file of Les Affaires of December 15, 2021, presented by PME MTL.

INFINITY Experiences, innovation at the INFINITE level

An immersive experience that attracts 70,000 visitors during a pandemic, successful international partnerships with NASA and TIME Studios, a collaboration between the famous Felix & Paul Studios and Studio PHI, and wins the Grand Rayonnement International Award presented by Investissement Québec International at HUB Montréal... There is no doubt that 2021 was a significant year for INFINITY Experiences—the new joint venture between Studio PHI and Felix & Paul Studios.

Praised for their technological innovations and, let's face it, their boundless audacity, these frontrunners of Montreal's cultural scene turn the world's attention and shine a spotlight on Quebec. The pandemic year that is ending (and has hit the cultural and tourism sectors especially hard) has demonstrated the leadership and durability of the intersection between art and technology.

A "Blue Ocean" of creativity

The "Blue Ocean" strategy, developed by two professors from the European Institute of Business Administration, advocates for creating unexplored market areas. With THE INFINITE's world premiere in Montreal, INFINITY Experiences introduced a new niche in the market: the creation of immersive experiences turned large-scale travelling exhibitions. Its success has demonstrated the appeal and financial viability of this new genre of innovative, technological works: "By developing VR experiences on a scale never before achieved, with the help of equally innovative partners, we created a new category of immersive exhibitions made possible by, among other things, the avant-garde nature of the business model," explains Eric Albert, CEO of PHI and co-CEO of INFINITY Experiences.

PHI's extensive expertise has aided INFINITY Experiences, having contributed to the growth of the immersive experience market through its numerous collaborations with new media artists and studios since 2007. By presenting experiences that are still unknown to the public, supported by constantly evolving technology, PHI has had to continually redefine the user experience. The acquired know-how optimizes immersive artworks to increase the operational capacity of works intended to be viewed individually.

Great openness to the world

Beyond reaching new creative heights, THE INFINITE is establishing itself as a high-calibre production and export model for the new-generation immersive experience industry. How do they do it? By developing a business and operational framework that has allowed more than 70,000 visitors to enjoy the exhibition in Montreal. With THE INFINITE as its spearhead, INFINITY Experiences' goal is to welcome more than 300,000 people per year and present its expertise worldwide.

"This world-class production has allowed us to expand to new places such as the Middle East and South-West Asia. In 2022, INFINITY Experiences will participate in the first Creative Industries Trade Mission in Dubai, led by the Government of Canada and focused on the audiovisual, digital and interactive media sectors," announces Myriam Achard, Head of New Media Partnerships and Public Relations at PHI.

Pierre Blaizeau, CTO of Felix & Paul Studios explains how this production has earned its place among other breathtaking technological innovations: "THE INFINITE has pushed technologies to their limits. There are very few experiences that have dared to combine free roaming, 3DoF (or "three degrees of freedom"), and multiplayer user experience. More than 150 spectators can, simultaneously, live an interactive and collective experience that allows them in VR, to wander at will and interact with the content as well as the other visitors." Unbeknownst to the audience, THE INFINITE offered them a first look into the Metaverse, a newly-coined term recently made famous by Facebook after changing their name to Meta.

THE INFINITE is an extension of the virtual reality work Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, the largest production ever filmed in space, produced by Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios. Filmed over two years and with privileged access to the International Space Station crew, this four-part immersive epic brings the joys, wonders, and dangers of life in orbit up close and personal with astronauts on a mission. Space Explorers: The ISS Experience was created in collaboration with the U.S. International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, ROSCOSMOS, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center.

According to Stéphane Rituit, CEO of Felix & Paul Studios and co-CEO of INFINITY Experiences, "This production is the consecration of a relationship established since 2016, between Felix & Paul Studios and NASA. We are the first Quebec studio to bring thousands of visitors as close as possible to life in outer space, thanks to the collaboration of international astronauts aboard the ISS, such as David St-Jacques."

For this production, the studio developed 360° stereoscopic cameras for filming inside and outside the ISS, capable of surviving in the most hostile environments such as microgravity, radiation, and extreme temperatures to capture over 250 hours of unique content. Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is currently playing at the Montreal Planetarium, in PHI VR TO GO programming, and on the Meta Quest app store.

Joint venture, co-creation... and consecration

Embracing mixed reality opportunities in the immersive entertainment and digital arts community, INFINITY Experiences was born in April 2020. This new player on the local and international scene aims to create, produce, and market large-scale immersive projects, starting with the travelling exhibition THE INFINITE. Felix & Paul Studios and Studio PHI have joined forces to develop innovative new experiences in extended reality (XR) around inspiring and authentic narrative universes. With this first production, they redefine and reimagine the industry standards for Location-Based Experiences in Virtual Reality (LBE VR), using never-before-tested technological developments to create the first-ever collective experience in virtual reality.

Felix & Paul Studios is a three-time Emmy® award-winning Montreal-based immersive entertainment company dedicated to producing innovative, first-of-its-kind virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality experiences for audiences around the world. In addition to Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, its impressive portfolio includes numerous collaborations with Cirque du Soleil, Jurassic World, Lebron James, Michelle and Barack Obama, and others.

Always striving to explore the boundaries between installation, performance, and mixed reality, Studio PHI continues to collaborate with other major global players such as the Venice Biennale, the British studio Punchdrunk, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Festival. They have also produced films such as Denis Villeneuve's award-winning short film Next Floor, among others.

Is there no price to pay for innovation? Yes, there is.

In addition to the Grand Rayonnement International Award, THE INFINITE has already earned several esteemed recognitions, including recipient of the Canadian Heritage's Creative Export Canada program, and the Fonds de maintien des actifs stratégiques en tourisme (FMAST) from Tourisme Montréal and the Ministère du Tourisme du Québec.

With its support and success in Montreal, THE INFINITE began a world tour in December 2021, stopping in three cities per year until 2026. Naturally, the first stop is in Houston, Texas, NASA's hometown, where more than 80,000 visitors are expected over four months. This tour is a great calling card for both INFINITY Experiences' productions and Montreal's reputation as a cultural capital and a place of innovation.

INFINITY Experiences is also developing different versions and formats of THE INFINITE to expand this new kind of experience's outreach and diffusion.

To follow the THE INFINITE on tour, visit: theinfiniteexperience.world
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