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Raindance Film Festival: 25th Anniversary

James King-Thompson / 2 years ago

It was a busy week for the Blend team last week as, together with our partners at Facebook 360, we were sponsors of Raindance Film Festival - the largest independent film festival in the UK. Although celebrating its 25th anniversary year, this was the first time that VR has been included in the festival.  Aside from experiencing all kinds of new 360˚ and VR experiences and listening to a variety of talks we also hosted a panel and managed to have some time to interview some of the incredible creators at the event.

Our Facebook 360 partners kicked off the week on Monday with a 360˚ filmmaking masterclass to inspire and educate the 200 participants in the room. They presented some key techniques in 360˚ filmmaking, decisions on camera choice, and some of the free features and functionality of the Facebook platform - such as spacial audio and heat mapping -  that can be used by 360˚ video creators to help them produce and publish great content. Blend Media’s Senior Producer, Stelios Theocharous wrapped up the session with a presentation on platform activation, insight on how to direct and shoot in this immersive video format.

On Thursday we headed  to London’s Hospital Club to experience the Raindance VR Arcade. The ground floor of this stylishly creative space was transformed into a 360 video and VR paradise. Visitors were able to view an eclectic mix of VR experiences that were shortlisted for the Raindance VRX Awards.

It was such a treat to be able to experience so many experiences in one space - some of them were mind-blowing, others thought provoking and moving and others were just plain fun!  Check out Blend Producer, Oli Greaves, getting stuck in below!

The energy,  passion and enthusiasm for 360˚ and VR in the room was incredible. It was amazing to see how many people were willing to share ideas and experiences.  We managed to catch up with Raindance’s Founder (Elliot Grove), Raindance's VR Curator (Mária Rakušanová) plus an international host of 360˚ and VR filmmakers.

Check out the footage we captured below:

The Raindance VRX Summit was held on  Friday and was an  action-packed day of panels, presentations and awards. It was a true celebration and appreciation of all VR filmmakers and 360˚ video creators out there.

Facebook 360’s Product Manager, Chetan Gupta, kicked off the day by speaking about ‘Bringing Immersive Media to 2B People.’ Chetan touched on the importance of educating people about 360˚ videos and the methods they have implemented so far to account for the 300 million increase in the number of Facebook users who have seen a 360˚ video on Facebook since this time last year. Amongst an innovative variety of tools, features and programs, Facebook’s Live 360 Ready Program, the Facebook 360 app on Gear VR and 360˚ analytical heat-mapping were also explained.

Next up was Blend Media's Founder and CEO, Damian Collier, who led an insightful panel on the exploration of narrative and storytelling in 360˚ with some fantastic panelists.  Alexandra Ruhl (Blend Media creator), David Betteridge (Blend Media creator), Chloe Thomas (BAFTA winning director) and Sam Weston (VR/360 producer) provided insight into some of the challenges and opportunities of storytelling in the format.

We also interviewed Alexandra and Chloe after the panel. Alexandra, who is a writer, director and producer for the 360˚ and VR video production company ‘CATS are not PEAS’, praised the VR ecosystem’s strong sense of community. She attributed the ‘strides in innovation’ to this collaboration and sharing of ideas. Similarly, director Chloe Thomas emphasised the importance of honesty and practical discussion. She argued that honesty surrounding the difficulties of shooting in VR is particularly useful for those shooting in VR for the first time.

The rest of the day was packed with  presentations and panels by an international cast of VR filmmakers. Here are some highlights chosen by the Blend Media team:

The team behind Greenpeace’s multi-sensory experience about the plight of the Amazonian tribe, the Munduruku, spoke about the challenges of shooting in the heart of the jungle but also how naturally the Munduruku people interacted with the 360˚ camera to help tell their story. Production company, The Feelies, created wooden, multisensory VR pods to transport users deep into the heart of the Amazon with the help of uniquely crafted forest perfumes and empathetic narratives. The experience Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon went on to win 'Best Social Impact Award' in the Raindance VR Awards that evening.

Another event highlight was from Barnaby Steel, the founder of Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) who provided some wonderful and entertaining insights on the use of VR in order to connect us with nature. Barnaby took us on a journey through the natural world through the eyes of a mosquito, frog and an owl as well as talking about their award nominated project  ‘Treehugger: Wawona’. The experience, which was nominated for Best Interactive Narrative Experience, reveals the secret life of the giant sequoia and never-before-seen inner workings of the world’s largest tree. Barnaby describes the experience in the video below.

Wesley Allsbrook and Saschka Unseld’s moving project, ‘Dear Angelica’  consists of a series of memories which unravel around you, evoking ways in which to remember loved ones through the fictional protagonist, Angelica.  Wesley took the audience through the stages of her creative process and how her illustrations were thoughtfully brought into life. The VR illustration tool Quill was used for the experience and Wesley's creative process working on the experience was used to feed directly into the product's functionality.

See more from the VRX summit below, including exclusive interviews with VR filmmakers and Blend Media's CEO and Founder, Damian Collier:

Inspired by a full day of insights and experiences it was time for the inaugural Raindance VRX Awards. A round of applause to all nominees and a huge congratulations to the winners:

Best Cinematic Narrative VR Experience

Alteration (by Jérôme Blanquet and OKIO-Studio)

Best Documentary VR Experience

First Impressions (by Francesca Panetta, Nicole Jackson and the Guardian VR)

Best Interactive Narrative VR Experience

Manifest 99 (by Flight School Studio)

Best Mobile Interactive VR Experience

Virtual Virtual Reality (by Tender Claws)

Best Animation VR Experience

Dear Angelica (by Wesley Allsbrook and Saschka Unseld)

Best Music VR Experience

Beethoven’s Fifth (by Jessica Brillhart)

Best Branded VR Experience

The Chainsmokers Paris VR (by Brynley Bibson and Russ Harding)

Best Sensual VR Experience

Through You (by Lily Baldwin and Saschka Unseld)

Best Social Impact VR Experience

Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon (by Greenpeace)

Best Sound Design VR Experience

Reeps One: Does Not Exist (by Aurelia Soundworks and Reeps One)

Special Prize Winner: Best Storytelling in #VR

Arden’s Wake (by Eugene Chung and Penrose Studios)

Check out snippets of the winner’s experiences and the awards ceremony through the eyes of Blend Media below:

We would especially like to thank Elliot Grove (Founder of Raindance Film Festival) and Mária Rakušanová (Raindance VR Curator) for allowing this unforgettable event to unfold. It was incredible to get a sheer sense of what the future of virtual reality and 360˚ holds, as well as feeling a true sense of enthusiasm and openness among VR and 360˚ video creators.

Until next time!