Watch Etihad’s Virtual Reality Film Starring Nicole Kidman

A few weeks ago I shared the trailer for Etihad’s virtual reality film starring Nicole Kidman, which is the first time a Hollywood actor is featured in a such a film:

The trailer was intriguing, not just because it featured lots of pictures of Etihad’s gorgeous A380, but also because there seemed to be a mysterious plot to it.

Well, Etihad has now released the full five minute virtual reality film, which can be downloaded on a dedicated website. You can only watch it on a mobile device, like an iPhone or Android, and you need to download an app to watch it.

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For those of you who were as unfamiliar with virtual reality film as I was, the reason you have to watch it on a mobile device is because you’ll be spinning your device throughout the film to get a 360 degree view of what’s going on. As the name suggests, you’re supposed to feel like you’re there.

This is an interesting marketing approach for an airline to take, since they’re greatly decreasing their potential audience by requiring people to download something. As someone who isn’t especially tech savvy, getting this figured out and then downloading it took a few minutes.

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So is the film worth watching? Well, the visuals are stunning, and the film takes you through economy, business class, the onboard lounge, first class, and The Residence (which is the private three room suite featuring butler service).

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Etihad’s lounge onboard the A380

However, maybe I missed something, but there didn’t actually seem to be a plot. Based on the trailer where they’re talking about something which is going to happen, I was expecting Denzel Washington to pop out (on second thought, an airplane movie he’d be involved in might not be the best PR for an airline).

In reality the film was simply a bunch of immersive airplane porn, which I love. It’s just not exactly what I was expecting going in.

Here’s how the film is described in Etihad’s press release:

Etihad Airways has released its highly anticipated 360-degree virtual reality film starring Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman. This marks the first time that a Hollywood actor has ever starred in a fully immersive virtual reality movie.

The five-minute feature, titled ‘Reimagine’, is a major coup for the innovative national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and immerses its viewers in a fully experiential journey following Nicole Kidman through one of its new Airbus A380s flying between New York and Abu Dhabi.

The airline has used cutting-edge technology and multidisciplinary mediums in the feature to bring to life its acclaimed guest experience and hospitality story by engaging the consumer in various sensory interactions onboard the virtual flight. Each scene in the film takes on a theme intended to stimulate the senses of light, sound, motion, and conversation.

Nicole Kidman, Academy Award winning actress and Etihad Airways’ brand ambassador, said: “The film is a culmination of Etihad’s vision to tell the airline’s story in an extremely innovative way and a commitment to engaging with the public as has never been attempted by an airline before. It was a great challenge but one which has definitely paid off and it was great to be part of such an exciting project.”

Throughout the experience, the viewer meets and engages with a number of characters including the actress herself, her film director, an opera singer and even an Emirati guest with a falcon in First Class. The journey also provides personal interactions with the Savoy-trained Butler in The Residence, the airline’s luxurious private three room cabin, the inflight Chef in First Class, the Food and Beverage Manager in Business Class, and the Flying Nanny, trained by the Norland College in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps the most interesting part of virtual reality films is observing people watching them. I watched it in the gate area of an airport this morning, and was constantly spinning around to be able to see all 360 degrees. When I finished watching the film, another passenger in the gate area said “is everything alright?” Oops!

I guess the moral of the story is that watching virtual reality films, much like running with a backpack on, will never look smooth.

I also learned that the flavors of biryani are supposedly enhanced at altitude.

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Salmon biryani in Etihad Airways first class

If you watched Eithad’s virtual reality film, what did you think of it?

Comments

  1. I like Etihad’s virtual tour. Reminds me of my recent flight with them from London to Abu Dhabi (First Class Apartment). I made a Youtube clip of my onboard experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuxTWr2Ol44. They have the best First Class of all airlines and the virtual tour gives a good impression of how it feels like.

  2. @Lucky – I’ve been trying to look for an award seat in the apartment between JFK-AUH and have not seen anything open for the last few weeks/months. Mostly I’ve been searching two or three weeks out. Have you noticed that too?

  3. I downloaded the film on my iPhone via the dedicated app on the AppStore . But I was charged for it.
    I thought it was free and neither did I receive any notification of it being paid. Did any one else get charged ?

  4. Does not resemble reality … EY F experience was a total let down and the worst premium service I have experienced. Business on some of the Asian airlines is much better! And I’m being nice here!

  5. @Aniket: Didn’t get charged. Was free for me.

    Ridiculously choppy playback, especially considering it wasn’t streamed. And I think I know part of the reason: when you load the app, you can see “Development Build” in the bottom right corner, as opposed to “Production Build” (although typically you wouldn’t have that either).

    Someone dun goofed and uploaded the wrong version.

  6. I wouldn’t proclaim Etihad’s First (including A380 First Apartment) as “World’s Best” either. It’s a big claim to say it’s “World’s Best” and it falls short on a few metrics (most notably ergonomics) – and I say that as an Etihad Platinum who has flown Etihad in the premium classes extensively.

    I prefer flying Etihad’s 777s to the A380 due to the better ergonomics of the old First class seat – with the Etihad A380 First Apartment you get an somewhat limited seat and a not very comfortable bed (some of the bed seats are now starting to slope slightly with age now too, which I really stops me sleeping).

    Service and catering can be really mixed on Etihad – a few crews are great, most are pretty ordinary, and some are really sub-par for a premium cabin – catering can run to the underwhelming or terrible (with insufficient catering at times) although they do deserve points for anytime dining. Consistency is missing.

    Ground services have been lacking, although the re-opening of a First Lounge may improve that.

    Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Etihad is that if anything goes wrong, they are pretty terrible at service recovery/remedy, even for their top tier Etihad Guest members.

    While I have not flown The Residence (and unlikely to do so given it’s only a incremental improvement over First for an over the top increase in price), I feel pretty comfortable based on my direct experience in saying that Etihad is an interesting airline that is making improvements and clearly seeking the “World’s Best” mantle, but is not yet there.

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