VR experts debate “New Visions of Reality” in Warsaw
by Ola Salwa
- Poland’s first conference dedicated to VR examined how immersive media changes our society, and welcomed specialists in the field from Denmark, France and Portugal, among others
The growing popularity and thematic diversity of virtual reality (VR) prompted a lot of questions and conversations during a recent conference entitled “New Visions of Reality. How Does Immersive Media Change Our Society?” Unspooling in Warsaw last week, it was the first event of this scale and depth to be held in Poland.
“We still don’t know how the medium of VR really works, so it’s a work in progress in terms of artistic language, production and business model,” the event’s curator, Ana Brzezińska, told Cineuropa. During the Warsaw conference, producers and directors working in the realm of VR first tried to define the specific characteristics of the medium and explain how it is different to traditional film. Mads Damso, creative producer from Copenhagen-based Makropol, pointed out the fact that VR provides the opportunity to be part of the movie to some extent, and not just a passive viewer. “I’ve had that feeling; it was extremely interesting to step inside the narrative of the film,” he said.
During the conference, VR was frequently compared to hallucinating, which makes such a technique interesting but one that requires prudence. VR makers are responsible for the mental state of the viewer to a much greater extent than filmmakers are. The speakers also discussed the realities of working in the new-media business – for instance, producer Jeremy Sahel said that he buys a new computer for his director every six months.
No matter how different and modern VR may be, it still has a three-part structure, just like any other traditional form of storytelling, but instead of acts, VR has a preparation part, an experience part and a decompression part. Attendees were able to experience this for themselves during the conference, which presented five VR experiences: Gloomy Eyes, Ayahuasca, The Last Goodbye, I Saw the Future and In the Eyes of the Animal. This particular selection of productions also showcased the sheer diversity of the themes and topics present in VR, ranging from an examination of the animal world to a visit to the site of a Nazi concentration camp in Majdanek.
What became clear during New Visions of Reality was how many creators in this new medium come from the field of special effects, the most eye-catching and most rapidly evolving branch of filmmaking. The speakers also included Philipp Wenning, Wiebe van den Ende, Rosa Sánchez, Michaela Pňačeková, Mariana Correia, Ollie Rankin, Mike Jones and Zeina Aby Assy.
New Visions of Reality was organised by the Andrzej Wajda Centre For Film Culture, Creative Europe Desk Poland and KIPA – Polish Producers Alliance, in partnership with the Warsaw Film School. The entire conference can be viewed online here (in traditional, rather than VR, form).
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