Raindance Film Festival this year is embracing Virtual Reality with over 40 immersive experiences competing in ten separate categories.
Well, summer is now officially over, so it’s time to get out your mac, brollies and wellie boots. On a happier note, it’s also Raindance time! 2017 sees the 25th Raindance Film Festival running now from the 25th – 30th September. 25 is a significant anniversary for any independent festival and one that sees Raindance looking to the future of film-making and storytelling during a tough time for independent cinema.It's a tough time for independent Cinema, but Raindance is looking to the future and embracing immersive storytelling Click To Tweet
Tech Trends was invited to the very red Raindance offices next to Trafalgar Square to talk about the future of the festival and the exciting programme for this year. Maria Rakusanova is the Director of VR and New Media and VR Curator at the festival and she brings with her a fantastic industry background at Samsung as well an unstoppable enthusiasm for Virtual Reality, and boy has she made an impact!20 pieces were showcased at this year's VR arcade at Raindance Click To Tweet
Raindance is the first film festival in the world to acknowledge ten categories of VR storytelling with 20 pieces taking part in the VR Arcade, running from the 29th – 30th Sept at Covent Garden’s excellent Hospital Club and 40 experiences competing in ten categories for the inaugural Raindance VRX Award to be announced on the 29th September.
Big film festivals around the world have opened their doors to VR before, with a few even offering an award or two, but as Maria explains, the technical medium and the ambitious creators out there are now producing work that is more exciting and groundbreaking than ever before. This year’s festival entries certainly reflect that, which is why Maria decided it was the right time to welcome VR and other emerging immersive technologies into the main competition alongside traditional cinema and really recognise the exciting work being produced in the medium.Creators are producing more exciting work than ever before Click To Tweet
It felt like the right time to welcome VR into the main festival competition Click To Tweet
You can check out all the VR categories here, but since here at Tech Trends we’re always keen to try out new experiences we tried quite a few of them ourselves. The most interesting for fans of traditional cinema, and a strong contender in the Best Cinematic Narrative Experience category is Alteration from Dir. Jérome Blanquet. Here the narrative jumps around elegantly as you follow Alexandro, a volunteer for an technical experiment who is targeted by a malicious Artificial Intelligence hell bent on feeding off his digitized subconscious.
The experience uses beautiful cinematography mixed with the new tricks of 360 VR video to create a very absorbing and unsettling mood that sucks you into Alexandro’s head and memories. I really loved this one!
The most fun, interactive and annoying experience we tried is from creative Tender Claws and is entered in the Best Mobile Interactive VR Experience category. Virtual Virtual Reality is a fully computer generated VR environment where hectoring AI Overlord, Chaz badgers you through a series of levels – each with a small challenge attached – to which you advance by donning a Virtual VR headset, dropping you, level by level, further into (Virtual)VR.
This was really fun and the critical encouragement of Chez has to be experienced! The way you change levels is really simple but effective and the cartoon characters and environments belie a complexity of design with the challenges making use of the Daydream HMD and controller, a really fun experience overall. There are too many awesome experiences to detail them all here, but they are all open to the public to try at the VR Arcade this year so we strongly advise you to pop along this Friday or Saturday and test them out for yourselves.
Festivalgoers could experience VR storytelling for themselves in the latest edition of the Raindance Film Festival in London Click To Tweet
Raindance is also famous for its education and training programs, and Maria has thrown VR filmmaking onto this mix as 2017 sees the festival partnering with Facebook to deliver the VRX Summit on awards day (September 29th ) when Award nominees, jurors and special guests from Facebook and Blend Media will take part in a series of talks, panel discussions and keynotes on all things 360 & VR.
Tech Trends was sad to miss yesterday’s 360 Filmmaking Masterclass presented by experts from Facebook’s 360 team, covering topics including camera systems and audio techniques, but Maria confirmed Raindance’s commitment to VR, AR and emerging storytelling technologies in future festivals, so we can’t wait to hear more. Watch this space, but in the meantime Raindance are running a Hands on VR Course on the 21 & 22nd October so do sign up to get those virtual hands dirty!
Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.