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New & Familiar: POP VR & TIFF 2016

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As a child I recall looking through a stereoscope called a View-Master which rotated cardboard disks consisting of seven 3-D pairs of colour photographs.  It was a Déjà vu moment for me when I took part in a media preview of the inaugural POP VR line-up curated by the Toronto International Film Festival.  The bulky red plastic device has been replaced with a high tech headset and the stills have become moving images stitched together to produce a 360 degree cinematic experience.

view-master-classic

Sitting in a chair I slowly spun myself to see was going on all around me in the virtual environment.  A common element was to have someone looking directly at you which is a cool idea that will quickly lose its novelty status.  What is the real test for Virtual Reality is the ability to produce a narrative structure that make viewers believe that they are personally witnessing events.  The five POP VR projects from USA, Australia, Canada and India are played consecutively and were selected not for video game interaction but for their ability to produce an immersive story.  The end results were rather mixed.

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Ch’aak’ S’aagi (Eagle Bone) by Tracy Rector is a stream of consciousness piece containing narration and imagery that emphasizes the spiritual connection Indigenous cultures have with nature and their elders.  Unfortunately, as a viewer I did not feel that much of a connection.

invasion-still

Invasion! by Maureen Fan, Eric Darnell and Michael Hitchinson harnesses the fun of a Looney Tunes cartoon where a white bunny encounters two malevolent aliens and mischievously thwarts their plans to conquer Earth.  The sound design is cool and the eye line of the protagonist effectively guides the viewer as to where the important action is taking place.

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Jafri by Michael Beets revolves around the day in the life of an African Australian who makes his way to a busy intersection in Melbourne where he holds signs protesting against racism.  The viewer is treated as a passenger on a train, a customer in a restaurant, and a pedestrian who happens to be sharing the same space with the protagonist.  The observer perspective is a natural part of the storytelling.

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KÀ The Battle Within by Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, and François Blouin combines Mad Max with traditional Chinese and Japanese theatre.  The surreal athletics and antics taking place are not unusual considering it is a Cirque du Soleil production. A ‘Theatre of the Mind’ atmosphere is created with the black backdrop which focuses the attention of the view on the action taking place in the foreground.

right-to-pray

Right to Pray by Khushboo Ranka takes place at the ancient Hindu temple of Trimbakeshaar where a group of women fight for the right to gain entry into the sanctum sanctorum.  The presentation makes one feel removed from what is happening.  However, full credit goes to using the panoramic aspect of VR to showcase the various media reactions to the event.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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One Comment

  1. I need those view master, can I buy one ?? I’m from Indonesia , so I want it so bad thanx

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