There is a lot to take advantage of about the future of creativity from the work that is done in virtual reality: from Sundance to Burning Man, last year it offered many examples of successful large-scale virtual events in 3D. However, among the major autumn film festivals, only the VR Expanded section of Venice has given way to the emerging medium, and only the most recent edition showed a key aspect of VR expansion that is about to grow: the social side.
In addition to the 24 projects in the competition and a handful of others, programmers Liz Rosenthal and Michel Reilhac organized a selection of 34 user-generated worlds created on the VRChat social platform. The spaces range from science fiction and adventure research topics to complete artwork and interactive music videos, many of which were built on massive scales inconceivable to any physical space in the festival.
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Throughout the festival, programmers organized special events and “world hops” to tour spaces they discovered while exploring the platform themselves over the past year. Last year, 140,000 people attended the Venice VR selection; this year’s numbers weren’t yet available, but because the selected worlds are publicly available on RV chat, full attendance is harder to measure.
One thing is clear, though: to really see the extent of global RV creation, you have to go through it. “We spent a lot of time wandering around,” Rosenthal said. Reilhac added that the experience helped them understand the interactive potential of the medium. “The future of virtual reality is social,” he said. “These people know exactly where they’re going.”
This programming process was very different from any traditional curatorial approach: programmers were joined by other people from the virtual reality community, in the form of avatars, as they explored expansive creations that were not officially presented in any kind of showcase. . Its creators made all the worlds public.
“I find that the explosion of creativity that is happening on social platforms is really so mind-boggling that it challenges the current mode of content production,” Rosenthal said. “These were people who do not consider themselves artists building these worlds in record time. The level of sophistication they manage to produce in these worlds is at the height of the most sophisticated works produced by the studios. ”
According to reports, Facebook has committed nearly 10,000 employees to its reality division, nearly a third of its workforce, just as the company’s Oculus 2 headphones reach record sales figures, there is no doubt that the Major media companies see potential to turn RV into the next phase of the online society. But the worlds selected by the Venice VR team show how many users they are already at the moment.
The worlds on display this year included Mycelia, an environment made up of fungi that react to audio produced by human avatars in space, and “Braindance,” a space designed to complement guided meditation with live analog synthesizers and visual aids. . The prolific creator of the virtual reality world Jen Davis-Wilson (who goes by the nickname “Fionna” on VRchat) led her own tour during the festival. He has been using the platform to develop an upcoming game produced by Oculus.
Rosenthal noted that because VRchat was based on Unity software, it allowed creators to experiment with the potential of the software. “It’s an entry-level drug into Unity,” Rosenthal said. “It takes ages to learn, but in reality something can happen quite quickly. They use the platform as a kind of prototype to build things. ” Reilhac added that “the platform is de facto a talent incubator that will lead to commercial success very soon.”
However, he added that community development within virtual reality seemed to replace any kind of profit. “When you dig a little bit and you get to know the creators of these worlds, people do it for fun,” he said. “For the most part, there is no concern about monetization and business models.”
Many of these social experiences have attracted gamers, whose investment in interactive media has made them more open to the potential of virtual reality than traditional film and television consumers. “We’re discovering that there’s a continuum between games and stories,” Reilhac said.
The range of creativity on display was informed, at least in part, by the pandemic. “We’ve seen a huge explosion in the last 18 months with people using platforms to create and play in new environments,” Rosenthal said. “We found it amazing that there was such a high level of complexity and complexity of content in worlds built so quickly. We see ourselves as a window into what’s happening in the world of diving.”
In many cases, programmers found that global builders used the platform to develop skills they would eventually bring to market. “Many of the manufacturers who are serious about doing things are experimenting on the platform to find out what the future models are, whether they are NFT or sell avatars and other assets,” Rosenthal said.
Of course, VR Expanded is a world apart from the conversations that took place at the Lido this year about films competing for the Golden Lion. But the festival’s RV programmers said they hoped participation in this year’s edition would help possibly defend training selections to RV users. “We hope to open a conversation about that,” Rosenthal said. “We see the potential of offering films to a larger audience alongside these creators.”
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