A NEW FRONTIER: IMMERSIVE AND INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
27 & 28 APRIL
Presented by Lighthouse and Creative England
At the end of April, Lighthouse ran Reframed, two days of talks and workshops exploring new ways of telling stories in immersive and interactive environments.
Reframed brought together leading innovators and practitioners from a diverse range of fields including animation, film, VR, augmented reality, 360º, games and immersive theatre, to explore the potential of new technologies and emerging practices.
Attracting more than 120 attendees, it was an inspiring and insightful two days, with our speakers and workshop providers generously sharing their expertise, knowledge and tips. The event fostered a warm and lively atmosphere, and there was a real buzz about the potential of these new technologies to change the way narratives are designed, and how audiences interact with them. The take-home message? There are no rules – the field is wide open for innovators to explore and play and develop the field.
Here, we’ve rounded-up the topics and projects discussed at the talks and compiled a list of the films, games, apps, podcasts and books recommended by our speakers.
Christopher O’Reilly kicked off the talks, tracing the history of innovation in storytelling from the Lumière brothers to Pixar to emerging immersive and interactive projects, where, he says “magic and heart” can be delivered to audiences through the combination of storytelling craft coupled with new technologies.
Following this, he gave invaluable insight into the creative and technical process behind two Nexus projects – Rain or Shine, an interactive 360° mobile VR short film made for Google Spotlight Stories, and The Gruffalo Spotter, the augmented reality app created for the Forestry Commission England – and delved into the challenges of immersive and interactive storytelling, where the audience is both in control and in need of guidance – “we know what you know, we know what you don’t know.”
Kim-Leigh Pontin spoke on the benefits of designing a project in a VR rather than a traditional storytelling environment – flexible sequences, multiple timelines and perspectives, the chance to alter time and space itself, and the ability to give access to spaces and objects inaccessible in 2D environments. She also touched upon the growing trend of social VR spaces, such as Facebook Spaces and Rec Room, and how individuals project their identity, real or made up, in these spaces. By its nature, VR opens the debate on the philosophical ideas of reality, perhaps, as Kim-Leigh surmised, “what is real is what you feel”.
Rob Morgan talked us through a range of AR projects from the recent phenomenon of Pokémon Go to the Playlines project Coming Out, an exploration of the future of love and dating, staged on three floors of the Tobacco Dock in Wapping, giving insight into the principles and processes involved in designing location-based interactive narratives. Its advantages – the real world is abundant and accessible, making it potentially low-cost, and it’s also a canvas rich with drama, story, conflict and characters. Its challenges – real-life can interfere with the designer’s intention. Ultimately, in augmented reality, Rob says: “You as the creator have no control over how much of your creation your audience sees”.
LANDIA EGAL – VR Producer / Co-founder of Wigal
Landia Egal talked through the creative and technical processes of creating the VR companion piece to the acclaimed feature film Notes on Blindness, which documented John Hull’s journey into blindness. The award-winning Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness takes the audience deeper into John’s sensory and psychological experience of blindness. Special attention was paid to using sound to “drive the images”, explained Landia, in order to replicate the world as experienced by John, who increasingly relied on the sounds around him – rain, voices, children playing – to create a mental picture. Each scene addresses a memory, a moment and a specific location from John’s audio diary, using binaural audio and real time 3D animations to create a fully immersive experience in a ‘world beyond sight’.
RESH SIDHU – Virtual Reality Creative Director at Framestore
Rash Sidhu gave fascinating insight into the production of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR. Throughout an intense eight week process, the team discovered the importance of collaboration and experimentation, as well as making sure technology didn’t interfere with the integrity of the world they were creating – as J.K Rowling put it,“wizards don’t click.” Resh’s reassuring conclusion for those creatives new to immersive and interactive technology was that VR is still in its early stages, a field wide-open for exploration and play, stating: “I don’t believe there are any experts in VR yet, it’s still too early.”
DANIEL LOCKE – Graphic Novelist and Illustrator
Closing the day, Daniel Locke presented his first exploration into VR, Through a Forest Wilding, a joint project with storyteller Karrie Fransman, examining the ecological concept of ‘rewilding’ which aims to reduce the dependence of ecosystems on human management. Still at the very early stages of the project, Daniel spoke about his research into new ways of creating artwork using Google Tilt Brush, and the possibilities of combining art and technology for social and ecological ends. Taking tips and suggestions from the audience, Locke demonstrated that in the field of VR nobody – as yet – has all the answers.
Find out more about the world of immersive and interactive stories and games, as recommended by our speakers.
Allumnette (Penrose Studios): Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl, this VR film chronicles the life of Allumette, who lives in a fantastical city in the clouds and, after enduring tragedy, grasps at hope for the future.
Arden’s Wake (Penrose Studios): A thrilling VR journey of family history and self-discovery when a young woman dives into post-apocalyptic waters to search for her lost father.
Dear Angelica (Oculus Story Studio): An immersive, illustrative VR short story starring Geena Davis and Mae Whitman.
Draw Me Close (Jordan Tannahill): Tannahill’s VR experience, made in partnership with National Theatre (Canada) and the National Film Board Canada, explores his relationship with his mother following her terminal cancer diagnosis.
Mind Show: An app for creating, sharing and experiencing shows and stories in VR.
The Last Goodbye (Ari Palitz, Gabo Arora): On his final visit to the Majdanek Concentration Camp in in July 2016, Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter tells his story in this deeply moving VR experience.
Joshua Bell VR experience: A musical experience for PlayStation VR. In partnership with award-winning violinist and Sony artist, Joshua Bell.
Marshmallow Laser Feast: London-based design studio creating ground-breaking immersive experiences.
Tribeca Immersive: Immersive films curated by Tribeca Film Festival.
Dead of Winter (Plaid Hat Games): Strategy board game set in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested colony.
Half-life 1 (Valve): Acclaimed science fiction first-person shooter game which uses award-winning technology to create a frighteningly realistic world.
Life is Strange (DONTNOD Entertainment): Episodic graphic adventure game where the player – as photography student Maxine Caulfield – can go back in time to influence the past, present and future.
RIck and Morty (Adult Swim Game): VR game based on animated science-fiction sitcom Rick and Morty.
Selfie Tennis (VRUnicorns): VR tennis game.
Super Hot (Oculus Story Studio): Elegantly brutal VR game.
The Nightjar (AMV): Mobile audio game where players have to escape from a spaceship on a decaying orbit around a black hole.
Uncanny Valley (Cowardly Creations): A retro feel, unsettling story-driven survival horror where nothing is as it seems.
Rec Room (Against Gravity): A virtual reality social club where you play active games with players from all around the world!
AltSpaceVR: Meet people from around the world, attend free live events, and play interactive games with friends.
High Fidelity: Open source software for creating, hosting, and exploring shared VR experiences.
BOOKS & PODCASTS
Hamlet on the Holodeck: Acclaimed book that covers the effect of computer technology on the way we tell stories.
Voices of VR – Embodied cognition using social structures for collaborative learning: Podcast on the potential of VR to further theories around incorporating our bodies within the learning process, not just our brains.
The Circle (Penguin): Dave Eggers’ dystopian novel that tackles surveillance, privacy and the frightening intrusions of technology in our lives.
Photos: Zoe Manders
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