Culture / Entertainment

Taking a Spacewalk in Houston — New Immersive VR Land at Sawyer Yards Lets You Live the Astronaut Life

The Infinite Shoots You Into Orbit

BY // 12.07.21

Space and all of its mysteries are never far from Félix LaJeunesse’s mind. The co-founder and creative director at Felix & Paul Studios has channeled his fascination with the cosmos into an interactive virtual reality experience with the Houston premiere of “The Infinite.”

The immersive experience is set to open at Sawyer Yards on Tuesday, December 21, giving space enthusiasts and starry-eyed curiosity seekers alike the opportunity to take a virtual spacewalk and explore a life-size replica of the International Space Station. 

The groundbreaking experience uses specialized VR camera systems designed to operate in microgravity, allowing participants to see through the eyes of the astronauts while on the ISS and during a spacewalk — a first in cinematic VR history. The spacewalk follows astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) as they maneuver outside the station, installing a support bracket for a new solar array. 

Footage for “The Infinite” was filmed during the course of two years, showing the daily adventures of astronauts as they completed tasks ranging from the temporal to the extraordinary. 

“The camera became the protagonist of the story, we treated it like a person,” LaJeunesse tells PaperCity. “You experience life as one of the astronauts.” 

“The Infinite” certainly lives up to its name with 6,000 square-feet of space split into different zones, each featuring its own ISS experience thanks to the massive reproduction of the space station to scale. 

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Start at Zone One and immediately begin a journey only the world’s elite astronauts have traversed. LaJeunesse and his team set the tone immediately so visitors have a feeling of “true presence” the moment they slip on their VR headsets and begin “floating” from orb to orb. 

The Infinite
Encounter an incredible view of the Earth in this unique cinematic virtual reality spacewalk.

It’s a journey LaJeunesse is still enamored with, no matter how many times he has seen the footage, and he relishes watching people begin their intergalactic encounter. 

“I got to witness the emotional reactions of the audiences as they walked through,” LaJeunesse says. “It’s an experience for audiences eight to 85 in a beautiful environment. It’s playful and fun.”

It’s also an award-winning experience.  

“Space Explorers: The ISS Experience” won an Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Program at 73rd Annual Emmy Awards, making it the sixth Emmy nomination and third win for Felix & Paul Studios. Other honors include the studio’s award-winning interactive programs “The People’s House — Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama” and “Inside the Box of Kurios” with Cirque du Soleil. 

Space holds infinite storytelling possibilities, and in February, Felix & Paul Studios are embarking on their next chapter, filming “Shooting the Moon” on the maiden launch of NASA’s megarocket Space Launch System. That VR project is slated for a 2024 release.

A Giant Leap for Houston With The Infinite

Houston is the first city to host The Infinite, and was a natural location for the launch of the ambitious project. 

“Not only because of the city’s deep ties to NASA, but also because of its richly diverse population that supports a wide range of cultural offerings from world-class art museums to unique traveling experiences such as ours,” producer Julie Tremblay says.

Early bird tickets are available from December 21 to January 12 for $29 and primary tickets are $36 to go between January 13 to February 20. For ticket information, go here. 

The Infinite
The Infinite, an interactive virtual reality experience, opens in Houston Dec. 21.

LaJeunesse and co-founder/creative director Paul Raphael call themselves VR storytellers. The gravity of what they created with “The Infinite” is a gift they are only too happy to share. 

“We are creating a cinematic VR legacy,” LaJeunesse says. “It was an incredible process with extraordinary access in a beautiful environment of discovery.” 

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