Open Eyes VR: Cinematic storytelling in virtual reality

Tampere Film Festival’s Open Eyes VR seminar (8–9 March ) in Bravo Plaza explored VR and 360º content by offering VR headset demos, panel discussions and case studies. Here’s some notes on the event.

Wednesday

The seminar was launched by VR enthusiast Kalle Rasinkangas, of University of the Arts Helsinki. The brief summary didn’t offer much new information but it was a nice introduction to the field of VR. Unfortunately I missed Jaakko Kemppainens (Mindfield Games) presentation “The Future Of VR”. His focus was on question: how to tell stories interactively in VR today and tomorrow.

The third speaker was Tero Pänkäläinen (Deeptale) who discussed about their Slushpolis Story HoloLens mixed-reality experience. According to him mixed reality offers wider scale than VR. VR environment shuts out the real world but MR makes it possible to overlay digital content into real-time space. Deeptales HoloLens demo was also quite fascinating.

Synes Elischka of Aalto Virtual Cinema Lab and Tanja Bastamow of Aalto ARTS University introduced their production of live action VR film Ego Cure.  It is a 15 minute narrative short film, where viewers role is to be an actual character of the film. Ego Cure pioneered many technical aspects so the production was quite a challenge.

Ng’endo Mukii and Tatu Blomqvist discussed their experiences when shifting from traditional film to VR. According to them the field still struggles with “primitive” technology – it’s not yet possible to put all the ideas into practice. One of the key difficulties in VR is to make transitions and sounds work.

Thursday

According to Mauricio Alvarez-Mesa (Spin Digital) and Tilman Scheel (Reelport) VR needs proper distribution channels in order to become fully mainstream. The biggest challenge is to reduce data without decreasing the quality and losing the immersive effect. The current devices aren’t good enough and internet connections are too slow, so basically what we can do is to wait for new generation devices. Practical problems are also an important issue. We don’t for example know what technology is dominating in the future: what devices should people buy? The key question for the future is how are people going to use VR? 

Serdar Ferit and Paulina Tervo (Lyfta) discussed ethics and compassion in virtual worlds. We don’t yet know what for example violent VR content does to our brain. Should there be a code of ethics for VR? Should there be content warnings?

In my opinion, the highlight of the seminar was when Luke Youngman and Felix Massie (Nexus) discussed the creative and logistical questions that arose during production of VR animation ‘Rain or Shine’. The project is a Google Spotlight story about Ella, who gets a pair of sunglasses, but but every time she puts them on, it starts to rain. The story is “linear, with trigger based pauses”, which means that A has to happen before B can happen. There are also multiple mini-stories within the story, which made the production of the 5-minute story quite a handful. Watch ‘Rain or Shine’ here.

Overall the Open eyes VR seminar offered an interesting overview of different VR projects and people behind them.

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