|Virtual reality can take you to the desert, the mountains, or even outer space, while sitting in the comfort of your own living room. While this has inspired game developers for years, filmmakers and storytellers are still in their infancy when it comes to exploring the opportunities of virtual reality. So the danish VR duo Mads Damsbo and Johan Knattrup Jensen have teamed up with CPH:DOX and created VR:LAB, an exploratory laboratory pushing the boundaries of cinematic virtual reality.
10 carefully selected artist and producers from the Nordic countries will in 10 days of deep collaboration and with a minimal budget create 10 new cinematic virtual reality experiences, that will be shown at the last day of the festival.
Focus is on expanding the boundaries of the square format of conventional cinema, and tell stories in a natively subjective way. When people experience the films, it will feel, not only, like they’re inside the film, but like they are inside a character in a film.
Festival director and founder, Tine Fischer, explains CPH:DOX’s motivation for creating VR:LAB with Johan and Mads: “CPH:DOX is founded on a strong interdisciplinary vision and has always been engaged in exploring the connections and interactions between different artistic disciplines. Two years ago the festival launched the transmedia initiative SWIM with partners from Sweden and Denmark, and based on those experiences we now want to intensify our attention on virtual reality. Virtual reality is one of the most promising media to foster and facilitate change due to its inherent ability to build empathy between people by letting you immerse yourself into another person’s point of view. The medium is going to change the art museum, our educational system, how we nurture social relations and the ways we consume news from all around the world.”
VR:LAB is developed and curated by director Johan Knattrup Jensen and producer Mads Damsbo, in collaboration with CPH:DOX, and facilitated by process consultant Ditte Wulff. Johan Knattrup Jensen and Mads Damsbo are the duo behind the acclaimed VR film installation The Doghouse (da: Skammekrogen), which recently has been to the New York Film Festival and received an award for Most Innovative Film at the Festival du Cinema Nouveau in Montreal.
“Our goal is to change the way we think about cinema. Why does it have to be in the theater? Why does it even have to be a film”, explains Johan Knattrup Jensen, and continues: “We want our participants to make experiences, rather than to constrain themselves in an old school square format. We want them to create something, that will feel like it’s happening to you alone, and only now. Like the first time ever you experienced a film, that’s the sensation, we want the participants to create, astonishment”.
His partner, Mads Damsbo, continues: “During our work with The Doghouse, we realized there where no manuals or youtube videos on how to make VR or even which cameras to use. So we had to invent the whole thing ourselves. We want to pass our knowledge on to fellow filmmakers and artists, and develop the way we can use the format to tell stories. We want to experiment with the new format, push the boundaries of storytelling, and ask more questions, so we can create stronger emotionally transforming stories for our audience”.
The lab participants will use special designed camera equipment, developed by the artist duo, Makropol, and Foresight VR, which surprisingly enough doesn’t use 360 degree techniques as traditional VR camera setups. The simple camera rig films in stereoscopic 180 degree, POV format. Or Cinematic Reality. The limited field of view demands more creative and psychological thinking, but also provides the feeling of being inside someone or something. Ultimately it puts the focus back on storytelling, away from technicalities.
During the 10 days of experimenting the participants are exposed to different kinds of VR experiences and talks. Among these are TheMachineToBeAnother, where couples of two can become each other, Bombina Bombast, a swedish art group, that makes performance VR with a horror twist, Michel Reilhac and his new erotic VR film, and documentaries from all over the world, just to mention a few.
The newly hatched experiences from VR:LAB will be made available to the public during the last days of the festival, both in exhibitions and through a free app for smartphones, and the lab itself hosts open house sessions every afternoon from 4pm to 7pm for the very curious part of the audience, that just can’t wait.
The participants come from a broad area of visual arts, some are into documentary, some are into fiction, some are in the fine arts, and some are very technical. Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark are represented in the pool of participants.
VR:LAB is produced by Makropol and CPH:DOX, which takes place from the 5th to the 15th of November 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The 10 final VR works created by the 20 participants will be shown to the public on Saturday, November 14 from 12AM to 7PM. And will at the same time be available for watching at home through the new VR:LAB smartphone app to iOS and Android. The exhibition takes place at Space 10, Flæsketorvet 10, 1711 København V
VR:LAB is made possible by support from Nordisk Kulturfond and Bikubenfonden.
More info at vrlab.dk