Felix & Paul Studios, the Montreal-based studio specializing in virtual reality films and experiences, said Wednesday morning that it had closed a $6.8-million (U.S.) round of Series A funding from a group of high-profile investors led by Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of broadcasting and telecommunications giant Comcast, whose holdings include NBC Universal and Comcast Cable.
Other participants include Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, LDV Partners, and Phi Group, which provided Felix & Paul with seed financing.
The boutique studio, with operations in Montreal and Los Angeles, is considered a leader in the emerging technology of virtual reality, which allows for an immersive experience that makes users feel transported into a different space or time. Samsung commissioned Felix & Paul to produce the introductory experience for its Gear headset, and last year Oculus, the heavily-hyped VR start-up owned by Facebook, signed the studio for a slate of virtual reality experiences, in what the companies called "the largest live-action VR deal to date."
Felix & Paul caught Hollywood's eye shortly after jumping into VR in late 2013 with Strangers, a so-called 'experience' which allowed people to feel as if they were in the studio of the musician Patrick Watson as he composed a piece at the piano.
The Hollywood Reporter called founders Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël "Virtual Reality's Wannabe Spielbergs."
The company has created a number of projects using existing intellectual property, including The Wild Experience for Fox Searchlight, which elaborated on a scene in the Reese Witherspoon film Wild (directed by fellow Montrealer Jean-Marc Vallée); Jurassic World: Apatosaurus, for Universal Studios; and Inside the Box of Kurios for Cirque du Soleil. It is also developing its own intellectual property.
Felix & Paul created its filmmaking process from the ground-up, building a proprietary 3-D, 360-degree camera rig as well as the postproduction software that facilitates stitching of footage into an immersive experience. It has scaled up from three employees in late 2013 to its current staff of 37 across the two offices.
In a statement, the studio said it will use the new financing "to grow its team and production capacity for its content pipeline; enhance its proprietary VR cameras; and expand its state of the art, production and post-production software suite. Additionally, the studio will expand distribution of its virtual reality experiences and apps to more platforms and international markets."
Stéphane Rituit, Felix & Paul's president, executive producer and co-founder, said in a statement that the financing "points to the massive need for high quality VR content across the media landscape." The company intends to "use this new capital to accelerate our goal of building a global VR studio."
Michael Yang, managing director at Comcast Ventures, praised Felix & Paul Studios in a statement as "the trailblazer in cinematic virtual reality." He added: "Their stories have touched audiences all over the world and their pieces are award winning. We were attracted to their artistic vision, their track record with viewers, and their full technology stack."
Mr. Yang will join the studio's board of directors.