Panaji: In a cosy viewing space on the ground floor of a Goa hotel, attendees at the 10th edition of NFDC Film Bazaar booked slots for watching, more correctly, experiencing the emerging world of Virtual Reality (VR), which enables the coolest cinematic experience in 360 degrees.
Films aficionados will be acquainted with the concept of VR in Hollywood flicks like ‘True Lies’, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Inception’ and ‘The Matrix’. Now, VR can be experienced by the public, which can also make films, if they so desire, with the special equipment available in the market.
“VR is not film-making, it is a new medium of communication,” asserts Dutch born and bred Indian Avinash Changa who invented the world’s first stereoscopic 3D VR camera and runs his company WeMakeVR in the Netherlands. He was among the VR panellists at the Film Bazaar which included Mirjam Vismeer – researcher in storytelling for VR at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Baradwaj Rangan – Associate Editor of The Hindu, Chennai and Michel Reilhac – VR filmmaker from France who avers VR is a new storytelling option which can be made cheaply and will throw up new job openings.
In the Viewing Lounge, a dozen films were screened, including the VR debut of AR Rahman’s iconic “Vande Mataram”. Shot on 4k stereoscopic, the film follows the 49-year-old musician’s tribute concert to Bharat Ratna M S Subbulakshmi, which he performed at the United Nations in New York on August 15 earlier this year.
Interestingly, most of the films were the creations of one of the most important VR pioneers, Chris Milk. The films encompassed various genres like toons, docs, fiction. In “Walking New York” Milk and collaborator Zach Richter capture the birth of a new large scale street installation in the city by the renowned French artist JR, who is famous for posting massive photos in urban environments the world over in attempts to create a poetic awareness.
Daniel Askill’s ‘Take Flight’, is also collaboration between Chris Milk’s VR company Within and The New York Times. ‘Take Flight’ features a number of Hollywood stars in a series of tributes to the ultimate Hollywood magic trick: adorable child actor Jacob Tremblay, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Lily Tomlin, Melissa McCarthy, Benicio del Toro, Jason Mitchell all moving languidly, floating above, in front, and around me.
For this correspondent, the film that resonated most deeply was Milk’s ‘The Evolution of Verse’ created in photo-realistic CGI and 3D VR. It pays homage to the Lumiere Bros whose films were shown in India, shortly after they debuted in France. Milk’s film starts with a train whizzing past a water body, then it slices into the water, coming straight at you before dissolving into the firmament of clouds/birds/streamers. The film ends with footage of an unborn baby. Its umbilical cord attached to its off-screen mother, the fully formed embryo reaches out to touch the viewer with its little hand. I cannot tell you dear reader, how profoundly moving, how deeply emotional that moment was for me.
Interaction is the new VR frontier says Reilhac, adding, “VR presents exciting challenges but also the possibility that some will find reality dull. Not just psychological, VR will affect our eyes and vision.” The jury’s out.