Marcin Łunkiewicz • VR producer
"VR shouldn't be reduced to a mere experience"
- We sat down to chat with Marcin Łunkiewicz, founder of mimo.ooo, who has hosted a master class on Virtual Reality Cinema at the Let's CEE Film Festival
We are only weeks away from Oculus Go goggles hitting the stores, and the promise of an open door onto the incredible VR experience actually becoming a reality. Behind these big words is Mark Zuckenberg, who previously invested 2 billion dollars in the Oculus Rift computing platform and is now bringing out the all-in-one wireless VR headset. Apparently, this is the future for those disappointed with real life. Meanwhile, VR installations have become a constituent part of some of the most prominent film festivals, including Venice, Tribeca, Sundance, Locarno and Cannes. Last year, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s short film Carne y arena won an Academy award, the first given to a VR project ever.
As part of the Virtual Reality Cinema section (20-21 April), part of the wider Let’s CEE Film Festival, two VR lounges equipped with rotating chairs and VR headsets will be set up in the Marx Halle and in the Village Cinema, screening a selection of 10 international films in 20-minute segments, with no charge for admissions. A cooperation with the 4GAMECHANGERS Festival is behind this initiative, supported by the United Nations, Greenpeace International, Stanford University, USC Shoah Foundation, WIDE, mimo.ooo and The Guardian.
We sat down to chat with Marcin Łunkiewicz - founder of mimo.ooo, the Warsaw-based studio dedicated to creating, producing and distributing VR and cinematic VR content - who had travelled to Vienna to host a master class on this very subject.
Cineuropa: There is an ongoing debate about whether VR is a form of cinema or just an experience.
Marcin Łunkiewicz: To my knowledge, there have been no significant changes in cinema over the years that it has existed. If you have a good script, you can make a good movie regardless of the technology that you’re using. Similarly, VR shouldn’t be reduced to a mere experience; this medium also requires a narrative, a climax. Right now, we’re working on a completely new movie language and figuring out what it’s going to look like in the future. A lot of testing is required in order to find new solutions.
Can VR compete with classical film formats? This hasn’t been possible for 3D, for example.
It depends on the market. But the reason why people like going to the cinema is because they want to be part of a story, and VR gives them this opportunity. It is our strongest trump card. We are part of the information – it’s transferred straight into our brains - and this is a very powerful feeling. Stereoscopy is just an addition to the existing technology and it isn’t great. In the VR cinema we opened in August 2017, the first of its kind in Poland, we show all kind of movies, even horror films, but they’re of poor quality unfortunately. We’re waiting for the right producers to start producing the right things with us. We’re ready and so are the distribution and co-production companies.
mimo.ooo was the first actor worldwide to produce a cinematic VR series premiering on the player.pl platform in 2016. How did this project come to be?
The most important decision we made was to work with Magdalena Róźczka, our lead actress and one of the producers of the project, and the private Polish TV channel that decided to finance this production without having any prior knowledge on VR. It was a risky project but, ultimately, it was a great success in terms of the viewing figures. With “Mismatched” we attracted one million viewers. But people didn’t watch the series with goggles, they used their mobile phones or computers instead and so they were none the wiser as to its most important element – the virtual reality itself. So, although it was a big success - both financially and in marketing terms - and everyone was happy with it, even the sponsors, I couldn’t share their enthusiasm. For me, the whole thing wasn’t about showing that we can do a 360 video on the internet, I wanted to build a VR market.
You’ve also developed a special camera to shoot the series.
We spent around 9 months on it. Picture quality is the most important element in making these movies, but all the cameras already on the market only had small lenses. We knew that we had to find something better, so we started developing our own system on the basis of 4 Sony A7s cameras. Wide lenses and the right sensitivity were what we were looking for.
What are you aiming towards in terms of VR?
We want to build a VR market in Poland and then expand and grow this market in other countries. I’m pleased to report that this is actually happening. In the near future, we’re opening a VR cinema in Vienna with Cineplexx, and the second part of the plan is to produce good cinematic VR content. The Warsaw cinema was a joint cooperation with Multikino and Samsung. It was a first for a large cinema chain, choosing to go down this route, which proves the value of the VR concept. By the end of May 2018, we will have opened five more cinemas, in Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań and Szczecin.
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