Crafting Virtual Reality Experiences for Social Change and Impact

For the first time in history, virtual reality can give us an opportunity to more efficiently and sustainably change public perception. VR is a powerful medium for empathy building, allowing the audience to feel what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. We caught up with Catherine Feltham, VR filmmaker at WaterAid, to discuss her work on 360 films and VR experiences for social change and impact.

Raindance: You’ve managed a variety of film projects for charity campaigns and most recently ‘Aftershock’ has been a great success. Could you tell us about the reactions you’ve been receiving?

Catherine: Aftershock is WaterAid’s first project in 360 video and it’s been a pretty exciting journey!  We are still in the rollout phase with the project and are constantly learning from it. Before we set out to create Aftershock, which was made in collaboration with HSBC through their eight-year global Water Programme, we felt strongly that we wanted to create a film that would be viewed and ‘experienced’ within a headset rather than online as a 360 film.  Therefore our campaign is all about giving people the opportunity to experience the film and our work, whether it be in their own living room using a free Aftershock cardboard headset, or at an event or festival where we’ve installed Samsung Gear VR headsets.

We worked hard at creating an experience that was playing to the strengths of the medium from the outset and this has paid off in the reactions we’re getting to the film.  For example, by using methods like eye contact to give the viewer intimate connection with Krishna, our central character at the start of the film, people have responded with comments like “very impressive, immersive and brings you right into the community.”

By experimenting with perspective and point of view we attempted to increase the audience’s understanding of particular situations, for example, by placing them at the centre of a community meeting or looking down steep paths that women have to carry water up to get it to their homes. By doing so we have gained empathy from our audience and been able to provide them with insight into what it might be like to be in the shoes of someone else.

“Watching the women bring the water up the hill was my favourite scene. It really showed the tricky terrain and the challenges to get the water to where it is needed.”

By giving the viewer access to an environment they have most likely not experienced themselves (a community damaged in devastating earthquakes) and letting them learn about a story behind the headlines of such a disaster, we have been able to demonstrate how progress is taking place in communities like Kharelthok and also showcase WaterAid’s approach of working in partnership – from local partners and communities to the organisations that fund our work. Through the HSBC Water Programme, we have reached more than 1.6 million people with safe water and 2.5 million people with sanitation over the last five years. The Programme also provided vital support to our long-term earthquake recovery efforts in Nepal.

“A key takeaway for me was that it’s possible to create change, and that working with communities is key.”

One of the most rewarding parts of distributing Aftershock has been seeing its ability to connect with such a wide range of audiences. We’ve managed to engage with all of WaterAid’s target audience segments, from school children and young people, to digital natives and global citizens to parents, partners, industry and grandparents!  It’s also been interesting to observe how you can hold someone’s attention for nine minutes in a headset, at a time where attention span online is trickier to hold.

We’re excited over the coming months to learn more about the different supporter journeys we can take people on after watching Aftershock.

How efficient has the project been in increasing engagement in contributing to charitable causes?

There’s no doubt that VR and 360 videos have been helping charities and NGOs increase engagement in the issues we’re working to raise awareness of.  The medium allows us to bring our supporters closer to our work than has ever previously been possible as well as offers an exciting way of reaching out to new audiences, perhaps those less traditionally interested in international development or charity.  In addition, it is a really powerful way of communicating with sector professionals, potential partners and donors, and at influential events as we have seen.

“Much more immersive than I imagined. Really brought everything to life in a way that I didn’t think would be so vivid. Insightful and one of the best ways I’ve seen a sustainability story told.”

The medium also enables an element of participation from those you are filming with which excites me, as it allows communities and partners a greater stake in the storytelling process.  By working closely with Krishna on how to tell his story viewers have commented on the authenticity they feel from hearing him tell the story and seeing candid moments like when he’s at the shop with friends, for example.

I think the challenge now is in understanding how to create suitable supporter journeys for audiences of VR and also being able to continue to excite and inform new audiences once you’ve got their attention.  In addition, working with partners like HSBC on projects like this creates huge opportunity for reaching wider audiences. We look forward to working more with them this year on this project.

What are the next projects you would like to work on in 2017?

That’s a tough one! I’d love to see some strong examples of AR being used for storytelling in 2017.  It feels like it’s been a bit of a buzz term for a little while without many examples behind it so I’ll be watching that space.

In terms of VR, WaterAid has committed to continuing to promote Aftershock for the majority of this year as we’ve noticed that these experiences have a much longer shelf life than a typical film as they can be used with so many different audiences and for a range of reasons.  The film can be used to specifically talk about our work in Nepal, or more broadly to introduce someone new to WaterAid and our approach.  We want to ensure that as this is our first project we really get the most back from it and test it in different ways before diving into another big production so that we can take our learnings from the project and apply them to any future VR/360 projects on this scale. That being said I think there are some exciting quick turnaround content opportunities with the Samsung Gear 360 camera I’m keen to explore, as well as the more interactive elements with the new controller for the Gear VR.

Join Catherine for our Raindance VR Masterclass on Monday, May 22 to learn more about crafting VR experiences for social change and impact. Reserve your spot here

The post Crafting Virtual Reality Experiences for Social Change and Impact appeared first on Raindance.

Raindance

iAnimal: Virtual Immersion Into the Reality of Factory Farming

By Dr Toni Shephard, Executive Director (UK), Animal Equality

Paul McCartney once famously said ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians’… but of course they don’t, and most people remain unaware of the lives and deaths of animals raised for food. But now all that has changed with Animal Equality – a leading international animal protection charity – transporting people inside factory farms and slaughterhouses via virtual reality technology.

In 2016 we launched our iAnimal virtual reality project with the film ’Through the eyes of a pig’. It took 18 months to produce and features footage from inside pig farms in the UK, Germany and Italy as well as a slaughterhouse in Spain. In all of these countries, and most of the western world, the majority of pigs killed for meat are intensively reared inside barren, filthy factory farm sheds with breeding sows confined to tiny farrowing crates for weeks at a time when they give birth—a sight that moved Downton Abbey actor, Peter Egan to tears as he narrated the film.

“I have never seen anything as shocking as this in my life. It’s devastating, and completely inhumane. Virtual reality enabled me to experience, close up, for just a few minutes, the horror of the short lives of factory farmed animals, to see what they see, to get a real sense of how they live. It has shocked me deeply, and it has strengthened my resolve to help them.” –  Peter Egan, Downton Abbey Actor

The practices that take place inside factory farms and slaughterhouses are deliberately kept hidden from the public. Animal Equality believes people have the right to know what happens in modern farms and slaughterhouses so that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they buy. Now, through our cutting-edge iAnimal project, we can open up these secretive, sinister worlds and allow everyone to experience first hand how farmed animals live – and die.

Through the lenses of the virtual reality headset, viewers feel that they are inside the farm and slaughterhouse, trapped alongside all the other animals, and sharing their fate. You stand next to a mother pig while she gives birth for the sixth time to piglets who will soon be taken away from her. You experience the extreme confinement of the farrowing crates. You witness the daily suffering that takes place inside a pig farm. You are right there when they take their last breath.

Our second film, 42 Days, immerses viewers in the lives of the most abused animals on the planet – factory farmed chickens. From the crowding and suffering inside vast chicken sheds, to hanging on a conveyor as you approach the slaughterman’s knife, this powerful film puts viewers in the place of the chicken, allowing you to see life – and death – through their eyes. Amanda Abbington, star of Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, was so horrified when she narrated the film that she threw down a challenge – ‘You should watch this before you eat meat, because I don’t think you would eat it.’

Having personally filmed inside countless factory farms, I have always felt that if I could only take people there – into the farms – so they can see how animals are treated like mere machines, they would stop eating them. Virtual reality has now made this possible and we are bringing this experience to as many people as we can. It is changing, and saving, lives.

Over the past 14 months, we have toured the country with iAnimal, visiting university campuses and high streets where more than 30,000 people have dared to put on a VR headset and enter the world of farmed animals. iAnimal is also available to everyone on www.iAnimal.uk where you can watch the 360° film and take a virtual tour. Do you dare to watch it and see what the meat industry is hiding from you?

Join Toni for our Raindance VR Masterclass on Monday, May 22 to learn more about crafting VR experiences for social change and impact. Reserve your spot here

The post iAnimal: Virtual Immersion Into the Reality of Factory Farming appeared first on Raindance.

Raindance

Step inside an artist’s painting with virtual reality

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Virtual reality artist Teek Mach takes you into her beautiful 3D paintings. Experience a world that can only come to life in VR.

After digging into this video, fly your own jetpack and take to the skies. Go on a VR journey in the latest episode of ‘The Possible’ by downloading the app here. Read more…

More about Arts Culture And Entertainment, Teek Mach, Painting, Vr, and Tech
Mashable

Microsoft HoloLens delivers first ever augmented reality Easter Egg hunt

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Easter Sunday is just hours away, and since it’s 2017, and we’re apparently living in the future, Microsoft has unveiled the first ever augmented reality Easter Egg hunt. 

The game was unveiled this weekend in Los Angeles at the VRLA conference where Microsoft and a team of AR developers allowed me to enter a surrealist forest construct where holographic eggs could be found using the HoloLens headset. 

While the rest of the world can only see the physical environment of the forest room space, using the HoloLens I was immediately presented with a living landscape, filled with the sounds of birds, animated flowers and rabbits furtively scurrying around the space. And when I discovered my first Easter Egg, the egg responded to my gaze by exploding open into a Disney-like flourish of color and sound.  Read more…

More about Augmented Reality, Ar, Microsoft, Hololens, and Easter
Mashable

‘DRIB’: What Happens When Reality and Fiction Collide? [PODCAST]

There is no recipe for making a successful doc/fiction hybrid. In fact, it may be better to throw away any rules at all.

The docu-fiction hybrid genre isn’t necessarily a new thing. In fact, there are some festivals that are entirely devoted to films that blur the line between what is real and what is written. The liberties that filmmakers take in blurring the lines is where the real magic shines through.

Kristoffer Borgli, director of the SXSW standout DRIB and guest on today’s episode of the No Film School Podcast, didn’t realize the full potential of the genre until he was halfway through making his film. He always knew he wanted to screw around with his audience, but to what extent?

DRIB is the true story of performance artist Amir Asgharnejad, a man who amassed a following through fake fight videos he posted on the internet. For Asgharnejad, it was never about getting famous; it was all just a joke. But it seems the joke was lost on an LA-based energy drink company who decided Amir would be the face of their new brand.

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No Film School

The reality of quote-unquote health insurance

Small business owners are often lionized by politicians as job creators. Innovators. Real Americans.

I don’t usually think of myself as a small business owner, but that’s what I am. My company (Quote-Unquote Apps) makes software for Mac and iOS. I oversee three full-time employees.

After salaries, health insurance is our single biggest expense. It costs more than the servers. It costs more than the App Store’s 30% cut. It’s a lot.

In fact, most months, the amount we pay for health insurance is the difference between our being borderline profitable and genuinely profitable.

An outside consultant might look at our books and say, “Man, you need to do something about those costs.”

They’d be correct.

The way health insurance works in the U.S. is maddening and unsustainable, both for individuals and small businesses.

The way it is now

I have two very different experiences with health insurance.

As a screenwriter, I get my insurance through the Writers Guild. It’s considered a “Cadillac” plan, which seems an appropriate moniker: pretty nice, but not something I would necessarily pick out myself. I don’t pay for it directly. When a studio hires me to write something, they are required to kick a percentage of that fee into the health fund.

So while I’m on my union plan, Quote-Unquote’s health insurance covers my three full-time employees: a designer, a coder, and my assistant.

I honestly don’t know the laws about whether a company our size is required to pay for health insurance. But as a practical matter, I can’t imagine having an uninsured full-time employee.

They’re not just co-workers; they’re nearly family. I care about their safety and well-being. If a medical crisis were to befall one of them, I’d feel morally compelled to help them pay the bills, just as I would for a sibling.1

So they definitely need health insurance. It’s not a question of whether, but how.

We originally had a small company plan, but with the dawn of the Affordable Care Act, it made more sense for employees to pick their own plans on the exchanges.

This shift came with some pros and cons:

PROS:
– The plans are slightly cheaper, mostly because the employees are fairly young.
– The plans are portable. When they stop working for me, they can keep their plans.

CONS:
– Employees have to research plans every year.
– Reimbursing employees for health insurance counts as taxable income.

Bring-your-own-insurance has given employees more choices and more responsibility, but I’m not convinced it’s a better experience overall. Because here’s the thing:

You shouldn’t have to think much about health insurance.

With my Writers Guild plan, I don’t have any choices. There’s no better or worse WGA insurance. It just is. As a union, we can negotiate on coverage and co-pays, but it’s not up to me as an individual to tailor a plan. I can make decisions about whether to see a doctor who is inside or outside the network, but that’s about it.

For my employees buying through the exchange, there’s no limit to the time they can expend comparing plans and choices.

While the ACA requires insurance companies to offer similar plans, there are always factors beyond the checklists. Some companies have better reputations. Others have larger networks. Every choice has trade-offs, and each employee has to decide what makes the most sense.

But the choice itself has a cost, too. It’s time you’re not spending doing your job. It’s mental energy burned and frustration and worry. It’s a tax on productivity.

The way it’s headed

Defending the GOP’s new American Health Care Act, Paul Ryan argues that his plan “is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”

For the poor, the gap betwen a plan they want and can afford seems to be alarmingly vast.

But even for better-off Americans like my employees, Ryan fundamentally misunderstands the reality of getting health insurance.

People don’t want “more choices.” The problem isn’t a lack of choices. It’s a lack of affordable quality health care.

People don’t want “better access to a plan.” They want better access to health care.

“More choices” is the kind of markets-fix-everything logic you hear from people who are already on Congress’s Cadillac plan. Paul Ryan doesn’t have to pick health insurance on the market. Like my WGA insurance, his simply comes with his job.

I don’t know whether the GOP’s plan or something like it will pass. It’s obviously flawed and widely despised, yet that seems to be the hot new trend these days.

As a small business owner, I’m determined to keep my employees covered with health insurance one way or another. Still, I’m convinced that we’re doing it wrong as a nation.

Health care shouldn’t be tied to your job at all. Whether you’re a screenwriter, a Congressman or a preschool teacher, your employer should be paying your salary, not determining which doctors you’re allowed to see. Our current system is a relic of an older age. We’re an aberration among world economies.

As both an employer and an American, I don’t want more choices, more freedom, more flexibility in health insurance. I want health care. I want there to be one imperfect plan that simply works, and to hold our elected officials responsible for its continual improvement.

  1. Paul Ryan would probably say that this is paternalistic, which is a way of dismissing guilt when it’s inconvenient.

johnaugust.com

Musicbed Wants to Give You $70K in Cash and Gear to Make Your Film Idea a Reality

If you’ve got a great film idea, Musicbed has $ 70,000 worth of support up for grabs to make it happen.

There is no shortage of ideas in the filmmaking world, but when it comes to funding those ideas, well, that’s a different story. Finding enough money and resources to create the film you’re envisioning is one of the biggest obstacles you’ll ever have to overcome, but Musicbed is hoping to make it all a little easier. If you have a burning desire to tell a story, the Musicbed Film Initiative wants to bring it to life by offering you $ 70K worth of cash, production gear, and post-production support.

This is only the second year of the Musicbed Film Initiative, but it has clearly struck a chord with the filmmaking community’s desire to not only tell the stories that we’re passionate about, but to also connect with those who want to offer support in our efforts to do so. After receiving nearly 7,500 submissions for the contest in 2016, Musicbed decided to up the ante and offer $ 20K more in prizes.

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No Film School

‘FRAUD’ Twists Found Footage to Create a New Vision of Reality

Entirely made from YouTube clips found online, FRAUD turns home-movie banality on its head.

[Ed. note: If you haven’t seen the film yet, you may want to see it before reading so all is not revealed. FRAUD is now playing in NYC until January 26th, so hurry!]

Amongst a sea of corporate logos, debt collectors, lost pets, iPods and ominous fortune cookies, FRAUD is a mesmerizing portrait of the American dream (alive and well) in the 21st century. Stitched impressively from over 100 hours of YouTube footage, the often hilarious, often heartbreaking non-fictional frame calls into question the nature of mediated reality itself.

At AFI 2016, we spoke with director Dean Fleischer-Camp about transmuting a family’s home video archive into a 53-minute joyride that sweeps the audience into frenetic anxiety and A.D.D. hypnosis.

NFS: How did you find the source footage and how did you design the narrative?

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No Film School

They’re Making ‘The Lawnmower Man’ Into a Virtual Reality Series For Some Reason

the lawnmower man vr series

In Stephen King’s 1978 short story “The Lawnmower Man,” a pagan employee of a lawn service company run by the god Pan murders a new customer with a magic lawnmower. It’s not a great story, but it is what it is. What it is not is a riff on Flowers For Algernon about a mentally challenged greenskeeper who becomes an all-powerful, all-intelligent, telepathic super-villain thanks to early ’90s virtual reality technology. Stephen King sued New Line for slapping his title on a completely different screenplay and advertising the film with his name. I think about this more often than I should, because how the hell did anyone think they could get away with that?

Anyway, the film version of The Lawnmower Man is about to get a second chance at being a thing that exists: it’s being developed as a VR series, which is so on-the-nose that I expect it to cause a nasal fracture.

Jaunt, the same company behind director Doug Liman’s VR series Invisible, is responsible for this one. It should be noted that “The Jaunt” is the title of a 1985 Stephen King short story about teleportation gone hideously awry, just in case you’re like me and are in constant search of unnecessary connections between disparate things.

According to The Verge, the new Lawnmower Man series will be a “a VR realization of the film,” whatever that means. I can’t help but hope that the series retains the 1992 setting of the original film and allows the viewer to experience some truly ghastly early CG imagery using cutting edge modern tech. Otherwise, I have no idea what a VR adaptation of The Lawnmower Man looks or feels like.

Jaunt is currently working on several other VR projects, including a science fiction suspense series called Luna, a political sci-fi series called The Enlightened Ones, a futuristic series about robots called Miss Gloria, and a surreal stoner comedy called Bad Trip. I’ve had enough experience with VR at this point to be completely won over by it as video game experience, but I’m not quite as sold on it as a new form of cinema. The rules are still being written on how to create a satisfying VR movie and I’m not sure we’re 100% there yet. Still, there’s something here. VR isn’t going to replace traditional movies, but it will offer us something new to explore and enjoy.

And one of those things will apparently be a new version of The Lawnmower Man. Sure. Okay.

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