Interactivity and VR at the Cinema

03-09-2019

The 76th Venice International Film Festival is at its peak, and between articles about celebrity fashion and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement awarded to Julie Andrews (the one and only Mary Poppins), there is also news from our own sector.

Venice Virtual Reality (first edition, 2017), is the first competition for virtual reality films within an international film festival, held on the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio. In addition to the films in the competition, the VR projects of the Biennale College and the “Best Of” category, twelve VR projects that are seeking funding will be presented as part of the Venice Production Bridge. There are three viewing formats: seated with a VR headset in the VR Theatre; “stand up” viewing (in interactive and linear modes); and three-dimensional installations with different degrees of interaction. The contents range from shorts of just a few minutes to “films” that come in at an hour or more, using a variety of techniques: from total CGI production, to mixed production, to live-action productions with flesh-and-bone actors, where the interactive elements are used by the spectators to obtain different points of view – such as different levels of vision – but also to actively participate in the life of the characters.

For VR directors, the Biennale College Cinema – Virtual Reality 4 | International competition is open. This aims to select ten virtual reality projects with a maximum duration of 30 minutes to be produced with a budget of € 60,000, which will be presented at the Venice International Film Festival in 2020. It is imperative that the projects entered in the competition be created exclusively through the use of VR technology and that they represent the potential that this audiovisual format can offer.

In Venice there is also talk about how shooting techniques and technologies change. Claude Lelouch presented Les plus belles années d’une vie: at 80 years of age he found new artistic vitality by shooting his work using only an iPhone. “Technology is less important than emotions – he said – if I had had the iPhone in the ’60s I would have used it. I don’t reject traditional cameras, but for each type of production you have to decide which tool is best”. In fact, Steven Soderberg has been shooting High Flying Birds – on Netflix since February 8th – with an iPhone, and he says he’s more than satisfied.

Why these experiments? It’s not a rejection of traditional cameras, but what a smartphone offers that is different: its immediacy, its ability to become invisible on the set, the speed with which it can be used and the reduced bulk of its equipment, plus the possibility to follow the actors directly, without screens to reproduce what the camera is capturing. Obviously, as a smartphone has no external lens, it offers limited zoom and wide-angle capabilities, and it doesn’t have the ability to manage exposure like a camera… but for this reason, a veritable cinematic poetry using the smartphone is already taking hold and, we imagine, it will become an alternative to the traditional camera without superseding it. You can read more about it HERE.

www.labiennale.org/it/cinema/2019/venice-vr

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