VR pops at Nevada City Film Fest | TheUnion.com

VR pops at Nevada City Film Fest

Virtual Reality films will be shown Friday and Saturday at the Nevada City Film Festival.
Submitted photo |


WHO: 16th Annual Nevada City Film Festival

WHEN: Thursday – Sunday, Sept. 8-11

WHERE: Historic Locations throughout Nevada City including Miners

Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St.; Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad

St.; and Ol’ Republic Brewery, 124 Argall Way, Nevada City

TICKETS: Tickets $10 GA/$8 Student & NCFF Members for individual

screenings, Early Bird Festival Passes $59 (limited to 200, available

until 9/1), $89 GA/$79 Student & NCFF Members Festival Passes.

Advance tickets available online at http://www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com, by

phone at (530) 362-8601, and in person at NCFF HQ 110 Union Street,

Floor 1, Nevada City.

“Casablanca” may have been perceived differently if the movie had been filmed in first person, perhaps through the eyes of its main character Rick Blaine.

Would the audience have better felt the emotion of Sam’s rendition of “As Time Goes By” if they had a front row seat in the café?

And the tear-jerking finale: would we have been able to make the honorable decision and let Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund escape to America instead of staying put?

That’s the idea behind virtual reality films. VR is becoming increasingly popular in the motion picture industry.

Nevada City Film Festival attendees will havhe opportunity to experience this innovative technique in filmmaking while it’s still in its infancy, thanks to a partnership between the festival and Kaleidoscope, a company that showcases some of the best works in cinematic virtual reality.

“(Watching a VR film) is completely different,” says Kaleidoscope founder Rene Pinnell. “It certainly can draw from cinema history, but it’s its own thing. When you’re telling a story in VR, you cannot direct a user’s gaze the way you can with the frame in cinema. VR is much more open-ended, much more experiential.

Keleidoscope produces different types of events such as partnerships with other organizations, like the Nevada City Film Festival, where it provides a curated showcase of what the company considers the best work coming out of the VR community.

Pinnell hopes the showcase will help inspire the next generation of filmmakers, especially if they haven’t considered using VR before. After all, he says, it could be the future of the motion picture medium.

“I think it’s really important that people stop thinking about (virtual reality) as just a…new-fangled thing that might just be a fad that will pass,” he said. “That’s the most important message that Kaleidoscope wants to get out there for the larger art community; if you’re a filmmaker, game developer, visual artist or a composer, virtual reality is not going away. “

The showcase at the festival boasts a diverse range of VR experiences for users to try. Live action shorts include “Jet Lag,” a film about two women separated by continents who express their love in the absence of each other through dance, and “I Am You,” which chronicles the life of a young couple who discover a crowd-funded app that allows them to swap consciousness and feel what it’s like to be in each other’s body. A selection of animated VR films will also be available, including “Mad God,” a stop-motion piece directed by Academy Award winner Phil Tippett.

Other offerings innovate even further. “The Night Café,” for example, creates a VR environment that allows you to explore the world of Vincent van Gogh in real time. “Bright Shadows,” a favorite of Pinnell’s, is an animation of dynamic, colorful abstractions choreographed to instrumental music that runs for 11 minutes. Just added is a free Q&A with VR creator Michael Catalano at 4:30 p.m, Saturday at Miners Foundry. “Bright Shadows” is a thesis project for Catalano, currently a 3D effects animator at Disney Animation Studios.

“‘Bright Shadows’ is an experimental piece that has beautiful interpretations of what music sounds like,” Pinnelll said. “It falls into this category of visual music, where an artist tries to interpret the sounds that they’re hearing and provide visuals that are abstract but capture the emotional content of the music. That has a rich tradition in cinema history, and this is really a beautiful example of it in virtual reality.”

Kaleidoscope has been advocating for film creators and other artists to leverage this new tech since 2014. Originally, says Pinnell, there was little enthusiasm for the idea.

“We thought virtual reality was going to be a groundbreaking shift in technology … and we were really fascinated by this idea of whether or not artists would adopt it; we certainly thought that they should,” said Pinnell. “So we wanted to form a company that promoted virtual reality as an art form. In the beginning, there were just a handful of people in (VR) projects, but as of last month we had nearly 200 submissions for our summer showcase. It’s remarkable to see how quickly this movement has grown.”

Now, Kaleidoscope has communities of VR-content creators around the globe, in locations like San Francisco, Montreal, London, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. The best experiences to come out of these Kaleidoscope networks are shown to the public in an annual March festival; this year’s edition will be held in Beijing. Kaleidoscope also takes its showcase on the road to Los Angeles, to New York City, to Seoul, and now to Nevada City.

The VR event will have a two-day run, starting Sept. 9.

“From our programming and special events to hosting filmmakers from around the world, we work very hard to be competitive with film festivals significantly larger than us and in international cities,” said film festival director Jesse Locks. “We want to put Nevada County on the map as a destination for world-class filmmakers to screen their work and for regional audiences to know they are always going to see what is the best in independent cinema for that year. This extends to working with Kaleidoscope on the VR showcase this year.”

Spencer Kellar is a Nevada County freelance writer.

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