This year's Tribeca Film Festival (April 13-24) had a strong focus on virtual reality (VR), promoting collaborative, experimental storytelling among the filmmakers, artists and innovators in attendance. We select the 2016 highlights.
Increased Presence: The most innovative VR projects set out to create storyworlds that provide a more solid sense of 'presence'. "Presence to me is that I have impact in this [VR] world in some regard, and that someone out there understands that I'm here," Jessica Brillhart, principal filmmaker at Google, told Stylus. "The beauty is if you have an entire world with many possibilities, there is a very unlikely chance someone will experience the same thing."
- Physi-Digital Forms: Forma is a multi-user VR collaboration between US-based experiential agency Fake Love and choreographer Jonah Bokaer. Four users stand equidistant from each other, their positions mirrored by virtual, golem-like figures in an otherworldly desert. The users' gestures then impact changes in the landscape.
- 3D VR Soundscapes: The Turning Forest by Australian filmmaker Oscar Raby is a VR journey through a magical forest that explores the immersive power of sound in virtual reality. Developed in collaboration with the BBC's Research & Development team, 3D sound recorded binaurally (using two microphones to mirror human hearing) is generated in real time to create a spatial soundscape that drives the immersive experience on a foliage-filled trail.
Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness also deploys 3D binaural sound. Using British writer John Hull's 1983 audio-diary of his descent into total blindness, participants are taken on a visceral journey to experience how loss of vision can enhance the other senses.
- Testing Worlds: Nasa, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and US-based Fusion Media have collaborated to produce Mars 2030 – a VR exploration of the red planet. Viewed from the perspective of an astronaut, this physics-based simulation is helping Nasa's planners virtually road test systems ahead of its mission to put humans on Mars by 2030. The full film will be free to download or stream via Twitch and YouTube Gaming later this year.