Marines Boot Camp VR Experience

Production Team:


Alan Whitley | Creative Director
Andrea Overstreet | Senior Art Director
Carlton Adams | Senior Art Director
Kate Adam | Account Supervisor
Rhett Kearsley | Senior Producer
Misty Baker | Business Director
Chad Isom | Region Supervisor


Evolve Studios

Joel & Jesse Edwards | Executive Producers
Daniel Kiedis | Executive Producer
Jen Lewis | Senior Producer
Joel Edwards | Director
Andrew Gisch | Directory of Photography
Diego Cacho | Still Photographer
Zach Prichard | Editor
Joe Bastien | Post Producer / Associate Editor



Captain John Grady | MCRC Action Officer
Captain Josh Twenter | Operations (Quantico)


J. Walter Thompson


Immersive VR

Officer Boot Camp

Enlisted boot camp

Marines VR | Case Study

Creating A Revolutionary VR Experience

When new U.S. Marine Corps recruits complete their enlistment paperwork, they receive an onboarding package that contains a welcome letter from their C.O., a USMC sweatshirt and a QR code to view a virtual reality boot camp experience.

In 2019, Evolve Studios was tasked with creating that campaign of VR films, as well as a still photo asset capture to be used for future marketing campaigns. In collaboration with JWT and the communications department of the USMC, Evolve created a 360-degree VR experience that would prep recruits and officer trainees for what they were about to experience. The team at Evolve quickly adopted the Marine mentality and pushed through every obstacle thrown their way while filming Marine recruits as they pushed through literal obstacles as part of their basic training.

In order to fully capture a recruit’s experience from arrival to graduation, the Evolve team decided that it was essential to film in a fully immersive, first-person point of view to place the viewer right in the middle of the nitty-gritty elements of training. This wasn’t the easiest way to do the project, but it was the only way.

The Only Way

As the Evolve team considered how best to capture these super intense moments and accurately and effectively tell this story, it became clear that the viewer needed to literally be in the boots of the recruit to see through their eyes what it took to earn the right to be called a Marine. Something only a VR experience could portray. 

“You feel like you’re there, you look down and see your hands, you see the instructors in front of you,” recalls Director of Photography, Andrew Gisch. 

"It's the only way to experience this particular story. You could not replicate this kind of experience in any other medium."

Gish describes the impact of this campaign. “When you’re done with the experience, it resonates with you on a level that traditional cinema wouldn’t. It should feel more like a memory of your own experience and not so much a memory of watching a film.”

Gisch and the team at Evolve realized that although this would be the best way to tell the story, it would also be the most challenging to produce. But it would be worth the effort. Producer Jen Lewis described how the viewer’s freedom to look around during a shot became a powerful tool in the telling of this story. 

“The viewer has the option to look around the room at other recruits and what they’re doing instead of us deciding what they’re looking at in the cutting room,” she said. 

All of the footage captured is that of actual Marine recruits arriving for basic training. Nothing was manipulated or staged. Their last phone calls to family are real. The recruits crawling through ice-cold, muddy water at dawn was real. Being ripped out of bed in the morning to the sound of a shrill drill sergeant was real. There were no second takes or redos. If a moment was missed, it was gone forever. Evolve had to be in the middle of their worst and most challenging moments – without being seen.

And we loved those challenges. 


Because all of this footage had to be captured in the middle of events that couldn’t be disrupted in any way, the Evolve team needed to be immersed in the action without being detected. 

Director Joel Edwards remembers the challenge of doing high-action VR with plenty of motion, camera movement, and complicated scenes all while filming in environments like boot camp where subjects and people are constantly in motion.

“We were tasked with trying to tell a good story with a camera system that literally sees everything, while trying to be a fly on the wall in the middle of boot camp without getting in the way and simultaneously producing a VR experience that is engaging and puts you in the action,” he said. “When you’re in a documentary setting and at a real boot camp with real enlisted Marines, you can’t get in the way.”

Hacking Emerging Technology

Evolve gathered a crew of nine who traveled in excess of 7,000 miles across a 9-day period with over 30 cases of premium VR film equipment. 

An undertaking of this size required cutting-edge technology, including a massive 8K cinema sensor and 270-degree super-wide fisheye lens. 

Highly dynamic, POV-style VR shooting typically requires multiple, stationary cameras. But for this shoot, Evolve came up with different methods for high fidelity capture with cinematic quality; but at the same time, created something that was mobile and adaptable.

“Usually being in VR, being mobile and moving around versus capturing high quality VR without seeing the setup around you are opposing ideas,” said Gisch. “That was very unique and very special for this shoot.”

The team at Evolve continued to innovate by creating an entirely new concept for a chest rig that allowed the camera to be positioned as close to the Marine’s body as possible. “This required extensive testing to ensure the perspective felt right when you were in the headset,” said Gisch. “We needed to make sure the arm positions weren’t too far away or too far back, so that it could feel like your actual arms. And we also needed to make sure that the Marine who would be wearing it would be able to have a somewhat normal range of motion to make the experience and actions feel seamless and real.”

In addition to utilizing state-of-the-art camera technology and creating new ways to shoot first-person POV, once the footage was captured, manipulating and editing 15TB of files became another challenge on its own. The post work with these types of files is vastly different from dealing with traditional film.

Zach Prichard, the project’s Editor, said it took a significant amount of work to even be able to view the footage.

“The clips that came back to us in post were spherical R3Ds, and they are unreadable on their own,” he said. “We have to run each clip through the application process to stitch seams together and output what’s called an equirectangular proxy file. This is a curved clip that is played flat in a program monitor. The equirectangulars represent the same visual information of the 360 degrees of the image, much like a map represents the same visual information of a globe.”

Post Producer and Associate Editor Joe Bastien added that the biggest challenge was creating the equirectangular image from the type of camera being used on this specific project.

“Technically speaking, most camera rigs shoot either a 180-degree field of view using one camera with a very wide lens, or a 360-degree field of view with two cameras shooting half of the picture,” Bastien said. “You would then stitch those two cameras later in Post. In our case, we weren’t doing either. We had one camera shooting a 270-degree field of view. This is an extremely rare case that just worked really well for this particular project, but it made finding any sort of helpful research impossible. We were essentially on our own.”

"There was very little room for error, as mistakes during some parts of the process could mean days of re-rendering."

Prichard added that in order to create the equirectangular clips, the Evolve team had multiple machines churning vast amounts of data for days before they could come online with any footage.

“Once the clips were ready to edit, I tried to be cautious of pace and not get too chaotic in the story we were telling,” he said. “The long-tracking wides were captivating enough on their own. The viewer will want to look around the room and see the environment. I also always tried to keep action in the center of frame. I wanted to make sure eye line focus was always pulling our viewer back to center so they didn’t miss anything when changing to the next scene.”


From developing new processes and adapting to new technology, every member of the Evolve team was up for the challenge of bending the rules, trying new things and fully embracing the excitement of breaking new ground in cinematography.

“It’s a true visceral experience,” Gisch said. “It’s enhanced beyond traditional film because it’s experiencing what the events are actually like. My opinion is that this sort of thing doesn’t happen often enough – where people are striving for the right kind of VR storytelling. With Evolve’s theme and creative direction, and knowing how meaningful this VR experience was going to be – the combination of vision, effort, and willingness to push the envelope creatively is rare.”


"Striving for meaningful VR content that can only be consumed in VR - that's how you push the medium forward, and this project checked all those boxes."

Director Joel Edwards recalls key moments during the project’s production. “We figured out a way to inject the viewer into the middle of all the action of a Marines boot camp. My favorite moment? It was watching the playbacks after our first day. I remember saying to the team, ‘Man this is gonna be something else, this is just too good to be true.’ This was the highest profile VR shoot we’ve done, and a lot of the technology that we were using on this had never really been used before in this way. It was incredibly cutting-edge, and I love that our studio has always stood for that. We take a very high-stakes challenge and rise to the occasion. Whether it’s the way that we’re planning on producing, or using new technology that’s cutting edge, or the combo of both, we’re able to always push the limit and truly evolve the work that we’re creating at every level, and that’s what I was so proud of.”