Usually when magazines promise readers behind-the-scenes access to their celebrity cover shoots, they mean quick, atmospheric video featuring wind fans and upbeat indie music. But InStyle is taking it a step further — way further — by delivering a 360-degree virtual reality tour of Drew Barrymore's November cover shoot.
Even if you aren't too familiar with virtual reality experiences, you've probably seen the futuristic-looking goggle headset thing one must wear — usually in fantasy gaming situations. At the Time Inc. offices this week, I strapped one onto my head, put on some headphones and pressed play on Barrymore's shoot. Once I got over the disorienting sensation of being able to look up, down and all around from different perspectives inside the studio — with Barrymore looking right at me and chatting, no less! — it was a fascinating, three-minute glimpse at the styling and beauty prep that goes into a cover shoot. Fashion Director Melissa Rubini made several appearances to make sure Barrymore's clothing was styled in just the right way.
Most people don't have a $750 Oculus DK2 laying around at home, however. But you can get almost the same experience using an Android or iPhone and a relatively simple (read: cheap) viewing device. "I have been aware of virtual technology for about two years now, and I always thought that it was something out of our realm because you had to have really expensive equipment," said Angela Matusik, executive editor of digital at InStyle. "But then in April or May, I saw some of these new viewers that are being unveiled to the public that are made out of cardboard or plastic." The last piece of the puzzle is a free app from Jaunt — the cinematic virtual reality company that collaborated with InStyle to produce the 3D film.
To facilitate the process, InStyle is sending cardboard viewers to select subscribers with their November issues, and also giving away up to 1,000 viewers online starting on Thursday. If that supply runs out, Matusik says they will order more — "We are in this experimental phase to see how quickly they go" — as well as recommend several under $30 options from brands including Mattel, Google Cardboard and DODOcase.
If readers respond positively now, the magazine hopes to use this technology to bring readers inside the upcoming inaugural InStyle Awards in LA on Oct. 26, as well as other exclusive celebrity events. Later, it plans to partner with other brands to produce fashion and beauty tutorials.
"At InStyle, we always try to make what we do really accessible and approachable for our readers, whether it's dissecting the latest fashion trends coming down the runway or giving you insight to our cover subject," said Matusik. "This is the first time that you actually feel like you're interacting with the subject, Drew Barrymore, because she speaks to you and there's a real intimate moment that jumps across the boundaries of what this technology does, and makes it really clear how cool and exciting it can be."