VR film festivals go 100% virtual & launch a Netflix-like streaming platform for VR
The times of Covid-19 bring challenges in all areas. Festivals and major events, in particular, suffer from the long-term consequences and have to reorganize digitally accordingly. Apart from that, headset stores are proposing new rules in data tracking and content management, making ‘native’ VR applications a lot less accessible or even an ethical distribution strategy. LucidWeb identified a solution to digitise film festivals fully by creating a virtual library that can be made accessible to everyone, directly and instantly via the browser across desktop, mobile and the most popular VR headsets, all GDPR compliant. LucidWeb is excited to introduce collaborations with three VR festivals who created a virtual festival space as an alternative, allowing the VR industry to continue pushing boundaries in VR storytelling amidst challenging times.
With WebVR as a proposed key technology, it is possible to create a direct connection between the cinematic VR story and the audience. Every viewer can access the story with one click via their browser without having to install an app beforehand. As a festival, deploying a library in VR through WebVR is equally a lot easier and less time consuming than building an app. The VR library doesn’t need to pass through a lengthy content store approval process. You could compare it with a Netflix-like streaming platform for VR providing access to a variety of stories curated by the festival.
WebVR is a pioneering new technology that offers high-quality, easy access to everyone and invites the viewer to access the content with the device mobile, desktop, and headset — they have at hand. Because the festival library now becomes available on three different devices, many more people have access to the content. Even people without a headset have the opportunity to watch a story unfold powered with high-quality adaptive streaming. This compatibility makes it possible to share these impressive experiences with colleagues as well as with friends and family.
Sharing of biometric data & store application requirements for 360° video
Some key recent developments in VR data ethics & content store application requirements stress the importance of a non-controlled, optional non-tracked open distribution channel as the browser is today.
As for LucidWeb’s data protection clause, as the gallery is distributed via a browser, GDPR regulations apply. Each custom environment set up for a VR festival will — by default — generate a pop-up that invites the audience to confirm if they wish to be tracked or not. In case the audience does agree to be tracked, no biometric data will be generated. Only ‘standard’ tracking will apply, meaning device/browser usage, views, drop-off rate and demographics of the audience.
Another worrying move is that both the Steam and Oculus store have confirmed their content store will no longer accept ‘native’ application requests that feature just non-interactive VR or 360° video (3DoF). Both stores confirm they wish to focus on gaming content or at least 6DoF cinematic VR content. Both stores confirm they wish to focus on gaming content or at least 6DoF cinematic VR content. So if you are a publisher, where to go to have your cinematic 3DoF 360°/VR content shown in a headset?
With the LucidWeb headset browser access option, the experience doesn’t need to be submitted with one of the headset stores as Oculus store nor Viveport, no authorization or approval is needed. The gallery becomes available immediately and instantly via the VR headset browser.
“Faced with the elements, let us be more creative than ever”
With this motto, the organizers of this years’ 26th GIFF (Geneva International Film Festival) want to use the Corona crisis to rethink the format of the festival and create new ideas to push their events on a more digital level in the future. Normally, the festival is a place to experiment, get together and celebrate. At the crossroads of genres and disciplines, GIFF showcases a program featuring films, TV series and digital arts for ten days every year. Since it was founded in 1995, GIFF has been supporting the role of independent authors in creative processes. Located in the heart of Geneva, GIFF contributes to the development of the Swiss and international digital industry thanks to its professional program, the Geneva Digital Market, which brings together a series of events organized each year in partnership with other international festivals, markets and institutions.
Due to the corona pandemic, the organizers had to create an alternative this year and designed GIFF into the digital world. To gain access to the virtual festival, professionals who are part of the program or interested in it, receive an individual and free accreditation. Once authenticated, the festival attendee has access to an immersive catalogue with more than 30 experiences — including Locus Solus from Christian Lemmerz, Black Bag from Qing Shao, The Pantheon of Queer Mythology from Enrique Agudo etc.- available for streaming across three devices, mobile, desktop and headset. Find the full list in selected stories here. The “GIFF XR Media Library” offers the accredited professionals a safe opportunity to experience the film festival from the comfort of their home despite these extraordinary times. Everyone is invited to engage and connect, so no VR professional or enthusiast is left behind with a fear of missing out.
Synchronization of devices
The GIFF XR Media Gallery introduces a novel (but still experimental) feature, we are quite excited about. You can now detect and switch devices that are connected to the same account. So if you are on your mobile, you can select your VR headset to continue the immersive experience on that device.
“If you want to change the world, change the stories.”
Another festival LucidWeb has partnered with is the Electric Africa VR Festival. The festival is organised by Electric South, a South African non-profit based in Cape Town that offers support, funding, production and exhibition services to a network of artists across Africa. Young and new creators can explore their worlds through immersive, interactive stories in virtual and augmented reality as well as other digital media. It’s an online virtual reality festival that is free to the public and arts industry professionals featuring VR works from African creators both on the continent and in the diaspora, alongside international works of narrative fiction and non-fiction 360 experiences.
An important difference with the XR Media Library for GIFF is that the library offered by Electric Africa does not require registration and is hence open to everyone, as long as the participants are based in Africa.
The festival took place from 5th to 11th November. You can enjoy the VR stories that were available here. Exciting titles were accessible as Daughters of Shibok (South African Premiere & Winner of ‘best VR story at Venice Film Festival) by Joel ‘Kachi Benson; Another Kind of Dying: Virtual Experience (African Premiere) by Amy Louise Wilson; Le Lac (Winner: best digital narrative at Sheffield Doc/fest 2019) by Nyasha Kadandara and Gr8ness (World premiere) by Michael Ilako.
“Creation through Innovation”
The 360 Film Festival organised by SatisScreen4All, traditionally has been a 360-degree film festival focusing on professional networking and content visibility in virtual reality, augmented reality and large formats. Unlike the last four years, this season the festival is not taking place in Paris but is creating an online alternative to participate from home. LucidWeb is powering its VR selection that is announced here.
During the festival, titles as A Miscarriage of Justice (International premiere & immersive 360 VR docudrama) by Atalanti Dionysus, Faire corps avec la ville (European premiere & architectural VR road movie) by Pauline Marchetti et Mathieu Pradat and Rain Fruits (VR film that uses 3D scanned environments in innovative ways) by Youngyoon Song will be showcased. A jury of high-profile VR experts including Celine Tricart, Agnès Alfandari and James Sénade will select awards for the best work in the following categories: grand prize, best storytelling, best interactivity, best picture and best sound. The selection, powered with a LucidWeb player, will be available between 23th and 29th November.
LucidWeb is proud to enable VR festivals to continue with their activities now fully online, making a unique selection of VR storytelling available to everyone, with clear data protection guidelines taking into account.
Do you have a selection of VR experiences available and interested in our VR Festival offering, don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com for a live demo of the festival players.
We would like to thank Dominique Hazael-Massieux (W3C/Immersive Working Group) for his valuable feedback.
13/11/2020: Following the publication of this article, HTC Vive reached out to confirm “the company still accepts 360° video to be published as an app. We recently made Into Space — 1st & 2nd Step available, featuring 2x 360 films. We host many other 360 videos on Viveport through our Viveport Video service, and are constantly seeking out new partners to provide 360 content to our customers”.
Credits go to Charlotte Pfeifer for the research and editorial work.