This month I had the pleasure of judging and curating a couple of strands of VR for Encounters Festival. Encounters is one of the UK’s leading short film festivals, and this year they went big on VR, with their very own thirty-seater VR cinema. This immersive content demonstrated not only how much creative potential VR has, but what a thriving creation scene there is. Dozens of VR experiences were screened from a diverse selection of creators.
We are seeing a new breed of filmmaker really starting to get to grips with the grammar of immersion. However, what I couldn’t help thinking though is how VR is just as relevant to publishing as it is to the film industry. It would be incredible to see publishing embrace VR in a similar way to how the filmmaking community has.
To help you with your brainstorming, here are some of my VR highlights from the festival that could feel particularly interesting to publishers.
Directed by Chloe Thomas and produced by Alex Rühl, Keyed Alike is a 360 romcom about two very different women who fall for each other amidst the backdrop of a riverside railing covered in love locks. You, the audience get the privilege of being a fly-on-the wall during this encounter. At just over seven minutes long, this short piece is as much about the atmosphere and emotion as the dialogue itself. The piece features Gemma Whelan of Game of Thrones stardom, demonstrating the value of bringing well known talent into the VR mix – your audience get the familiarity of an actor they know already, which helps offset the general unfamiliarity that a new medium like VR can bring.
Vaysha was born with one green eye and one brown eye. Her left eye sees only the past. Her right, just the future. Like a curse, Vaysha’s split vision isolates her and prevents her from living in the present. Though this philosophic tale has a timeless quality, it is also very zeitgeist: we are reminded of the importance of savouring the present moment.
Blind Vaysha was produced by cross-platform pioneers, the National Film Board of Canada and was directed by Theodore Ushev. Blind Vaysha’s remarkable differentiator is that whilst it happens in a headset, it is not 360. Animation happens in front of you. On the surface this is almost like a regular film. The magic is that it uses VR’s stereo function to full effect: at key moments, you see the world as Vaysha sees it, with your left eye seeing her past and your right eye seeing her future. You choose which view to take simply by deciding which eye to close and which one to open
Created by the imaginative VR pioneers, BDH, Bosch VR lets you take a fantastical virtual reality trip through 15th Century master Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Sitting on a flying fish, you can explore the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Earthly Delights and Hell. This piece does what I’d always wanted to do with Bosch paintings; step inside them! BDH’s work shows the vast and exciting potential for incorporating existing assets into new work. This one is available for Google Cardboard as an app – just search for it in the app store.