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LUXEMBOURG 2020

An intensive and stimulating 3rd VR Day at Luxembourg City Film Festival

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- The third edition of the event brought together VR professionals to discuss the challenges and possibilities of the medium

An intensive and stimulating 3rd VR Day at Luxembourg City Film Festival
Tupac Martir introducing the VR project Cosmos Within Us (© VR Pavilion Luxembourg)

Before the festival's complete programme was brought to a halt last night due to the measures being taken against the coronavirus outbreak (read here), the tenth Luxembourg City Film Festival saw the third edition of the festival’s VR Day take place as part of the festival’s Virtual Reality Pavilion in Neumünster Abbey. On Friday 6 March, the event brought together professionals from the VR industry, who gathered to discuss the challenges, opportunities and trends at play in this still relatively young medium.

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The morning was taken up by several case studies demonstrating different approaches to the possibilities of VR. The day opened with choreographer, dancer and film director Blanca Li presenting her project The Merry Widow, a collective and participative experience featuring dancers present both in the virtual and in the real world. In a focus on immersive art, Eleanor Whitley, executive producer at London-based studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, discussed the use of VR technology in crafting immersive experiences. Toby Coffey, head of digital development at the National Theatre, then discussed the VR experience All Kinds of Limbo, which inserts a life-size performer monitored through volumetric capture (3D) into a new, digitally created VR environment. Annick Jakobowicz, commissioning editor for storytelling research at France Télévisions, described République, An Interactive Film (by Simon Bouisson, co-written by Olivier Demangel), in which the user can alternate between three different “Facebook live” streams all taking place during the same (fictional) terrorist attack in Paris.

After a break, the event turned its attention to artificial intelligence. Frederik Duerinck, director and founder of the company Scentronix, discussed Algorithmic Perfumery: after the user answers a series of questions about their own (perceived) personality and about five specific perfumes, a machine creates three different perfume blends that are supposed to fit the user’s personality and, therefore, suit their taste. In a keynote speech, Thibaud Latour, head of the "Human Dynamics in Cognitive Environments" Research Unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, answered the questions asked by Jean-Paul Bertemes, head of science in society at the Luxembourg National Research Fund, about how art and science could, through intuition and creativity, be used together to create new solutions.

Jimmy Cheng, director of content and business operations at Iconic Engine, then kicked off the afternoon with a presentation on the company’s work to “bring Hollywood’s vision to reality”, arguing that the technology should work for the content and not the other way around, and giving examples of how clients have expanded their original IP into VR and other immersive experiences. Tupac Martir, director at Satore Studio, then presented Cosmos Within Us, an expensive VR project that complements the use of VR with smells, wind effects, real-life dancers and more.

This complex installation made for a nice segue into the subsequent panel discussion, during which several festival programmers shared their own methods for including XR within their programmes. Lili Hinstin, artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland, said, “Doing a VR programme would be like doing a 16 mm programme,” arguing for different formats to be included together in the same selections. Nicolas Girard Deltruc, director of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal, Canada, agreed and explained that the “Nouveau Cinema” of the festival’s title referred to all kinds of moving images. Fabien Siouffi, curator at the VR Arles Festival, France, expanded on audiences’ growing interest in VR and XR, while moderator Astrid Kahmke, curator of the Virtual Worlds Festival in Munich, Germany, also argued for the importance of making VR an inclusive and welcoming experience.

Finally, closing the event was a highly stimulating conversation with Arnaud Colinart, producer and creative director of the Atlas V studio, whose project Spheres won the VR Grand Prize at the Venice International Film Festival in 2019. Colinart elaborated on the need for writers with strong ideas, and stated his interest in narration as a great way of making viewers forget about the technology and fully immerse themselves in the experience. Talking as a creator, he elaborated on this crucial moment when VR has not yet been accepted into the mainstream, and called on other creators to be perfectionists with their projects, as every failure could potentially be harmful to the whole industry.

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