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VR film fest makes audiences part of the story

Credit: DANIEL KHARLAS

VRcadia Virtual Reality Film Festival 2019 showcased a new medium for directors, and a new experience for audiences.


Haydn Rooth | Interrobang | Lifestyles | June 7th, 2019




Virtual reality (VR) has been making a name for itself over the past several years. Snowballing popularity and technological advancements have been bettering the technology exponentially.

Today, most people know that VR mostly consists of video games, travel experiences and team building exercises. However, some innovative individuals have been pushing the limit of what VR can do. One of these individuals is Daniel Kharlas, the general manager of VRcadia, who hosted London’s first ever Virtual Reality Film Festival on May 24 to 26.

VRcadia is a virtual reality lounge where patrons can book a booth by the hour and be immersed into one of many VR experiences. VRcadia specializes in meditation, education, team-building, video games and now, film.

“The idea that you become a character in the movie, this sort of idea where we all happen to watch the Avengers movie and think, ‘oh, I wish I was one of the superheroes. I know what I would want to do, I know what superpowers I’d want to have.’ This is that opportunity to be a part of that story and progress it forward,” Kharlas said.

Upon entering VRcadia for the film fest, each individual was greeted and then shuttled toward the VR lounge. Beautiful neon-strobing lights reflected off of the wall decals, leading the eye towards the many VR booths set up for each individual.

Each booth contained a rug, a short chair, the VR headset and the VR paddles. Once settled, each individual was given a program entailing the full list of content and instructed to choose any number of films reaching an hour or less. With the choices locked in, an attendant assisted in fitting the VR headset and paddles. From there all that was left to do was press play and let the experience begin.

A wide range of experiences were available, suiting anyone’s taste in film. Awake: Episode One by Martin Taylor was, “captivating, chilling, intriguing, and fully immersive”, said festival attendee Alexander Quiquero. “Awake drops you right in the middle of a broken man’s final stand. It was heartbreaking to watch him try to unravel the mystery before him when you’re two inches away from his face…being that close and in the room where all of this craziness was happening was terrifying but was only scary due to the full immersive nature of the film”.

Awake told the story of Harry who is plagued with lucid dreams that affect his reality. Outside of VR this would have been a slightly unsettling story, but in this medium, the effect was much greater.

This simple story went from timid to terrifying in VR. At that level of immersion, it is you in the film, it is you making the choices and it is you who sees the final results. This medium is not only the future of cinema, it is the future of storytelling.

“It’s something that shows maybe where the future of cinema might be, in extending the director’s vision into thinking of the viewer as a character,” Kharlas said when asked about the directorial portion of VR and cinema.

VR cinema is a new frontier where directors are now able to pull the camera back 360 degrees and really think about what the viewer can see. Storytelling has completely changed as filmmakers are no longer restricted to the standard film camera, they are now thinking of the viewer as either a bystander or a participant.

The future of this medium is limitless, full of opportunity, and people like Kharlas of VRcadia are pushing the format forward with great strides.
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