Limina VR Theatre

The Zubr team created a unique software system to power the Limina VR Theatre, which hosted its own public venue and runs pop-ups around the UK.

Officially launched in April 2019, the Limina VR Theatre was established in the heart of Bristol’s harbourside, effectively a Watershed virtual reality Cinema – inviting guests to enjoy a curated selection of immersive 360 experiences. The straightforward and scalable format is also used for Limina’s ‘pop-up’ theatres at international events and festivals. The system is controlled via an iPad by a member of staff, and includes a beautifully-rendered VR intro sequence and full ambisonic audio. Whilst it was running, Limina’s virtual reality cinema was an integral part of the VR Bristol scene.

A simpler way to bring VR content to live audiences

Zubr worked with Limina to devise a solution for synchronising VR playback for audience groups. The system we designed uses a dedicated server to control all client devices, allowing a member of staff to monitor the entire group through an intuitive web interface. Equally important is the player application; running on each VR headset to display the curated 3rd party 360 content, complete with an introductory sequence. The beta system was first deployed at the 2018 Encounters film festival, and fully launched within the Limina Theatre at the Watershed Cinema in April 2019.

“Reducing the barriers to entry into the world of VR is something I am deeply passionate about. Our VR exhibition app means that any venue can smoothly exhibit VR if it has the space and a paying audience.” 

Catherine Allen, founder of Limina Immersive

The need for a better VR exhibition system

Thousands of people have now been paying guests to the Limina VR Theatre; in Bristol and beyond. Before the software was developed, Limina CEO Catherine Allen had already spent countless hours interacting with members of the public at VR events, building a picture of how an ideal VR exhibition would work. Through close collaboration with Catherine, we identified many of the common problems at VR showcase events, such as onboarding, synchronisation and providing assistance, and began working to eliminate them with our own VR exhibition system.

The half you experience as the audience…

Once the Limina team have welcomed you to the space and shown you to your seat, Zubr’s virtual reality system effectively takes over. Putting on the headset, you find yourself immersed in an abstract landscape; with a calming voice introducing you to virtual reality. As Limina’s official narrator, Nikki Van Der Zyl briefs you on how to adjust your headset and gives you some mindfulness-inspired tips on feeling fully present. Finally, she asks you to confirm that you are ready to begin your VR adventure.

Only when everyone in the audience is comfortable will the curated VR playlist begin. The whole group then share the experiences simultaneously, eventually removing their headsets at the same time and sharing their thoughts in a chilled, ‘decompression zone.’

Limina VR Zubr Bristol balloon

“…When you’re ready, look at the balloon on the horizon and take a few slow deep breaths, while you wait for your travelling companions to join you. When everyone has looked at the balloon, we’ll begin our journey…”

Limina VR narrator, Nikki Van Der Zyl

Limina VR Theatre cinema control panel by Zubr

…And the half used only by the Facilitator

Whilst the audience are settling in to the virtual environment, our intuitive web-based control interface allows a member of staff to monitor the system in realtime. Running on a phone, tablet or laptop, the interface lists all headsets currently connected to the server, shows which VR playlist is queued, the current timecode through a VR piece, battery levels, and even flags an alert if an audience member requires assistance.

Much like a cinema projectionist, the member of staff simply has to make sure they have prepared the correct content, activate playback once the audience are ready, and then just keep an eye on things until the session comes to an end.

Fully integrated VR CMS

This all makes a great introduction, but what about the actual VR content itself? An integral part of our system provides the storage and management of 360 films and Unity VR scenes, using nothing more than the SD card in a Raspberry Pi microcomputer! Staff can select any of the available content through the control interface, and curate their own playlists. The system will automatically transfer the content onto every headset before the session begins. Since the project began, Zubr have processed and deployed more than 30 third party VR pieces onto the Limina VR system.

Zubr Bristol illustrated 360 made for Limina virtual reality cinema