#1319: Preview of 40 Raindance Immersive 2023 Indie VR Art, Music, Game, Narrative, & Live Experiences

Raindance Immersive is back with 40 independent VR experiences across eight categories of Immersive World, Immersive Experience, Immersive Art Experience, Immersive Music Experience, Immersive Narrative, Immersive Game, and two new categories of Short Film of VR and Music Video of VR, which are 2D films that are shot within virtual reality. 75% of this year’s selection has some connection to a social VR platform with 28 connected to VRChat with single experiences in EngageXR and Resonite (i.e. the spiritual successor to NeosVR.

I had a chance to catch up with the co-curators of Raindance Immersive of Mária Rakušanová and Joe Hunting to get a rundown and sneak peak of all 40 experiences at this year’s selection that runs online in VRChat from November 4th to December 3rd. Nearly all of the screenings are free (everything aside from the gaming selection) with free sign-ups for live performances, guided tours, and screenings listed on their website. Raindance is at the forefront of curating the trends that are at the bleeding edge of virtual culture and the best-in-class of worldbuilding, live performances, and musical experiences within these VRChat and social VR environments. It’s always great to hear more about how they curate this festival by being deeply in tune with the VRChat community and actively participating in events throughout the year to build relationships and create a creative deadline for immersive artists, worldbuilders, and storytellers to share their latest works.

I can highly recommend checking out this year’s selection, particularly the immersive world selection and be sure to drop by one of the screenings of films that were shot within VR chat as that’s a new and exciting trend. I get a bit more historical context in this development from Hunting as he shares some of the early film festivals in VR, and selections of 2D films shot in VR that he curated starting in 2020. Phia’s The Virtual Reality Show Film Fest featured a selection of 14 films shot in VRChat on February 25th, 2023, which led to the founding of a VRChat filmmaker Discord and provided a catalyst for collaboration and knowledge sharing with other VRChat-based filmmakers. Hunting provides a bit more context as to how the community got to that point, and why it was the perfect time for the VRChat filmmaker community to self-organize and for Raindance to expand their selection this year to feature these 2D films.

Raindance Immersive runs for a few more weeks until December 3rd, 2023, and so be sure to check out RaindanceImmersive.com for more information for how to check out this year’s selection.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of special computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So in today's episode, I'm going to be talking to the co-curators of Raindance Immersive, Maria Rakushenova, as well as Jill Hunting. And they're going to be talking about the 40 different experiences that are going to be screening at Raindance Immersive, which is running for the next couple of weeks here. So there are 40 total different experiences. Around three-quarter of those experiences are connected to social VR platforms, mostly VRChat, but a couple with EngageXR as well as Resonite, which is sort of the spiritual successor to Nios VR. And Raindance is an independent film festival that has been around for over 30 years featuring traditional films, really supporting the independent filmmakers. And the immersive section has been going for a number of years now. Maria has been curating it and they've really been going into what's happening with the frontiers of virtual culture within the context of these social VR platforms, especially with VRChat. And they're very active in going out and trying to curate different shows and performances. There's different worlds and different immersive art experiences. And this year, they actually have a new section of 2D films that are being shot within the context of VRChat. So both a short film section as well as a music video section. They have some live music performances as well as immersive narratives, as well as immersive games. So yeah, just a really broad selection around what's happening at the frontiers of independent entertainment, art, and storytelling. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Maria and Joe happened on Wednesday, November 8th, 2023. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:04.913] Mária Rakušanová: Hi, Kent, and hi, everyone. Thank you so much for having us. Really excited to be on the show. My name is Maria. I'm the curator of Raindance Immersive. This is my eighth year as the curator. And Raindance is a film festival from London. This is our 32nd year and eighth year curating VR projects. And it's our fourth year actually also hosting the festival inside VRChat, which always brings lots of great energy and excitement and positivity because there's just so much creativity on that platform.

[00:02:44.400] Joe Hunting: Lovely. And I'm Joe Hunting. I'm a director. I've made a film called We Met in Virtual Reality. And I'm also the co-curator of Raindance Immersive. And it's my third year curating alongside Maria. And I'm going to be talking certainly about our new categories this year, which were films and music videos made in VRChat, which we're really excited to talk about. And it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having us again, Kent.

[00:03:09.187] Kent Bye: Yeah, I always appreciate coming to Raindance and being able to see all the different experiences. And I feel like it's really been on the frontiers of trying to look at some of the different trends of what's coming in different aspects of virtual culture. And so Maria, I'd love if you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into working with Raindance.

[00:03:29.207] Mária Rakušanová: Oh, yeah, sure. So I've been in the VR industry since, gosh, 2014. So actually in January it will be 10 years, which is really exciting in various capacities, working for hardware companies, platform companies, here and there, helping out independent gaming studios. And in 2017, I came on board with Raindance. as the curator. And ever since, it's just such a pleasure to obviously every year look at what is trending, what are the key kind of things to highlight when it comes to creativity in VR, across gaming, across narrative experiences. And since 2020, I've been also looking at virtual world building, which is something that I find very, very, very exciting, because it lends itself to VR really well, and environmental storytelling. And then this year, for the first year, we also are highlighting the filmmaking community within VRChat that Joe will cover. To summarize the 2023 selection, so this year we are presenting 40 experiences, of which 30 are virtual reality experiences and 10 are short films and music videos shot in VRChat. Of those 30 VR experiences, 10 are single player, five games and five narrative projects, and then the rest are all multiplayer social VR experiences, 18 of which are from within VRChat, one from Engage, it's an art experience, and then one from the brand new platform, Resonite, that I'm very excited about, actually, to see how they are going to grow. And of course, as Raindance, we'd like to help them as an asset in a new platform. And that's a live performance. And of those 18 VRChat performances, eight are live music performances, anything from two J-pop experiences, one of which is a Amoka, a band that was actually born in VRChat. And then the other one is Capsule, and they are a electropop duo from Japan who actually started in the 90s. And now they're coming into VRChat presenting their very first live performance called Capsule. And then we also have a number of electronic music, techno performances. You've interviewed PK, so we have his latest show called Equilibrium, which I've learned that it's by far the most ambitious. It also has some live recorded performers and actors. So that will be quite an interesting musical journey presented on 18th of November. And then as you could see during our opening event, Kent, we also presented Eden Interactive's new and latest Halloween themed show, Darkwood Manor. And they started in January in VRChat. They are focused on live cabaret performances. And for each performance, they create a custom built world within VRChat, which is always a beautiful, beautiful cabaret venue. And then they work with very, very talented dancers and performers from within VRChat who obviously use full body tracking. And then they change their avatars. And sometimes their avatars kind of like multiply. and they dance as two people. So it's always a huge pleasure to see what they're up to. And I'm very, very happy and proud and pleased that we were able to show their Halloween show at Raindance. We also have a very interesting kind of Japanese cultural experience called VR Japan Tours Under the Autumn Moon. And it's part a cultural experience where you learn about an aspect of Japanese culture, as well as a performance. So for Raindance, part of the performance will be actually various dancers from within the Japanese dance community doing sword dancing and fan dancing and always under the kind of, you know, very traditional Japanese culture. So that will be something also quite really, really, really unique. And then for the first time this year, very excited to present Fail to Render, which is the very, very first comedy. club in VR. They actually started in Old Space. And sadly, when Old Space shut down last year, they brought it to VRChat. So lucky for the VRChat community. They also run it, I believe, in Horizon Worlds as well. But for Raindown specifically, they have invited eight comedians, and each of them come from various countries around the world. And Kyle, who is the founder of Fail to Render, he's also a comedian. So I believe he will open with his own edition as a comedian. And actually the show is now sold out. That was the first show that really, really sold out. So yeah, that will be also really fun and exciting. And it's really great to see this kind of wonderful mix between live dance performances, music performances, comedy, cabaret, cultural shows, you name it. It's just lovely to see the various facets of creativity that are born from within these social VR platforms. And then two brand new categories, in addition to films that we are presenting this year, is an award for music experiences, best immersive music experience, and then best immersive art experience. Some of these art experiences are single player, some of them are social, mostly from within VRChat and one also inside the Engage platform. So that's kind of intro before we perhaps dive into films.

[00:09:14.462] Joe Hunting: There's a lot to digest. Yeah. We had a big festival this year.

[00:09:18.983] Kent Bye: Yeah. When I saw the selection, I guess this year I went through and tabulated and saw that there were 40 total experiences and that 30 of them had some connection to like a social VR platform with two of them, like you had mentioned with what Originally was Nios and then a lot of them defected over into Resonite and then also Engage. But mostly all the other ones are VR chat world or shot within VR chat. And so you had three quarters of the program had some connection to social VR platforms. And so maybe before we start to dive into the other new sections, love to maybe just have you reflect on this trend of curating three quarters of all of the different programs had some connection to a social VR platform.

[00:10:05.534] Mária Rakušanová: Sure. So first and foremost, the key motivating factor is what Raindance stands for. So we are an independent film festival from London, championing independent filmmakers and VR creators. And in fact, on the social VR platform, you find the Indies of the Indies, because more often than not, it's one person who might be the music composer the DJ, the virtual world builder, all in one. And there is definitely one such great example. I'm now going to give a huge shout out to Cyrex, who is exactly that kind of very prime example of an independent creator who manages literally everything, the entire production, visuals and sound including. And thanks to this very nature of the festival that we are championing in these, it's only natural that, you know, we, of course, you know, we look at through the entire spectrum of the industry. So we look at independent gaming studios and hence we also have games in the selection. But if we really are going back to the true core and the legacy of the festival, then It's no surprise that you find that true independent talent on these social VR platforms. Predominantly on VRChat, there is lots of such great creative talent. Another aspect is also that in 2020, we chose VRChat as our home platform to host our festival. We built our first ring dance embassy world there. And the community was also very, very helpful on that journey. And, you know, anything from helping us QA, helping us, you know, learning Udon, helping us with, I don't know, tips on shaders and you name it. And that was a quite a insightful and in many ways crazy six week journey while building our own festival world. So it's also, you know, a way to give back to the community and say thank you. And at the same time, highlight people who are trending on the platform or who are not yet discovered on the platform. That's our role to find new talent. And, you know, at the end of the day, the motto of the festival that hasn't changed since 32 years is discover and be discovered. So discover as an audience member and be discovered as an independent creator.

[00:12:22.323] Kent Bye: And Joe, I'd love if you could maybe give a bit more context as to your background and journey into VR and then your connection to Raindance as well.

[00:12:30.580] Joe Hunting: Yes, absolutely. I'd love to. Funnily enough, I met Maria and got introduced to Raindance by volunteering for the festival, actually in 2018. And I think it's quite wonderful to say that it was at Raindance in 2018. I tried VR for the first time. So it's actually thanks to Maria and the Raindance for having me to volunteer that I got to play a game. And I was running Transference by Elijah Wood and his studio. I was running that demo. And so Transference was actually one of the first VR experiences I ever did, which was very scary. And so I've always had kind of an affinity for Raindance, immersive specifically, as well as a film festival. But obviously, it really meant a lot to me, as that was a huge inspiration point in my career and my creative journey. As I went to film school and started experimenting with filmmaking and VR chats and making my first documentaries, it was through my documentaries that Maria then discovered me not remembering that I volunteered in 2018, if I'm completely honest. She was really excited about what I was doing in terms of filmmaking. I said, hey, I don't know if you quite remember, but I actually volunteered for you. in 2018. So it's so funny that you're reaching out to me again. And from that moment on, we've been very good friends. And I was helping Maria in 2020, really just as kind of a friend and a supporter and kind of producer in a way to bring the festival into VRChat. So supporting the development of the world, the space, and helping to coordinate the different VRChat creators who were participating in that year's selection, as well as creating video content. Yeah, it was obviously an amazing year in 2020 and we really built a community in that first year, which I think we both fell in love with and wanted to foster over the next few years. And so I was really fortunate that from 2021, Maria allowed me to co-curate and we've been working together on, you know, on celebrating independent artists using VR. And yeah, it's been a wonderful journey. That's how I got into Raindance and a little bit, you know, of how I got into VR as well. They're very much in tandem. But to speak more personally to myself, I mentioned I've been making films inside VRChat, and that's certainly been my profession. Last year I released my first feature film, which was We Met in Virtual Reality, which is the film that most people know me from. premiered at Sundance and then premiered on HBO Max, or Max as it's now coined. Yeah, so that's a bit about me and how I got into Raindance. It's quite a lovely journey, really. And I'm very, really happy to be celebrating films this year, which I can certainly talk about.

[00:15:08.082] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, maybe before we start to dive into some of those specific sections that you have, you mentioned there's 40 total different experiences and we've talked about some of them already. Maybe each of you could speak about the submission or curation process. If you're actively going out to curate or if you're taking submissions or just talk a little bit about your process of. curating and selecting and what balance of submissions versus curating the pieces that are out there did you do this year for this year's selection?

[00:15:39.138] Mária Rakušanová: Sure. Yeah, I can start. So it's a mix of both. The festival uses the Film Freeway platform for submissions, and I kind of call them organic submissions. And indeed, I do end up selecting a lot from the organic submissions. And interestingly enough, this year, we received a lot of virtual world submissions as well, officially, through that submission process. However, while this is, of course, very, very helpful, yet, you know, as curators, we need to be absolutely in tune with the VR community, whether it's gaming studios, whether it's tailbash artists, whether it's documentary storytellers, whether it's animation studios, as well as, you know, world builders across these various social VR platforms. And sometimes, you know, people who actually work at VRChat or Resonite or Engage to help us keep abreast of all these wonderful trends. So, yeah, we keep busy. We keep our head in headset pretty much throughout the year. Of course lots of it is also very positive word of mouth which is helpful and I guess you know our track record as a festival throughout the previous seven years. In terms of kind of maybe the split between organic submissions and our own outreach, Well, it really varies every year, but definitely the vast majority is our own outreach. So perhaps 10 to 90. But this year we took a little bit of a new turn with Joe, where Joe and I maybe like three months before the festival, we had the phone call, the defining phone call, where we were inspired seeing some of the films on the platform that were popping up. So we were like, well, actually the official submissions at that point just closed. And then Joe and I made a decision to open up a Google form, kind of an unofficial submission form. And the word of mouth went out. And yeah, Joe, if you want to take it from there.

[00:17:46.213] Joe Hunting: Sure, yeah. Regarding the films and music videos, I just put an open submission out and it didn't have a huge amount of criteria. It was really just documentary, narrative, music video. At the time we were thinking of just celebrating films slash videos kind of in general, but then I received so many music videos. And so Maria and I put our heads together and decided we should definitely kind of separate these two categories. And we birthed best short film of VR and best music video VR, which I think was such a brilliant decision because obviously judging short films and music videos is not quite the same language, you know, two very different experiences. And so, yeah, it was such a fun process curating, you know, and obviously being specific to films, but the other categories were also excellent too. And in terms of kind of process and I, You know, I always look for finding diversity in the selection, you know, wanting to celebrate a breadth of projects and from different areas and different cultures and, you know, interested in different themes and subjects. And so that's something I think about with everything and especially the films as well. I hope the film programme is especially diverse as well.

[00:18:52.415] Mária Rakušanová: And one important this year has also been, well, you know, we are 10% physical festival, so we did have a physical showcase of the single player experiences, and then 90% virtual festival, predominantly inside VRChat, for actually five weeks. We just now on 4th of November opened our festivities inside VRChat and we'll be running all the way to 3rd of December, which is five weekends actually. And we run our events predominantly on Saturdays and Sundays, here and there on some Fridays as well and there's always the Thanksgiving weekend. in the United States, so we are kind of mindful of curating the European events on that weekend. And we don't just kind of invite European audiences because we're a British festival, but equally North American audiences and audiences in Japan, China, Korea, Australia. So this year was the first year when we actually had two opening events. One morning time, UK time, which was evening in Japan, China, Korea and Australia. And we opened with a big bang with Amoka's live music performance, which was fantastic. And then several hours later, we were just catching our breath from all the excitement in the morning. We then opened to predominantly European and North American audiences with a big bang of fantastic dark wood manner performers by Eden Interactive, which was also very, very unique. So lots of adrenaline rush, which then brought us to the second day for our very first virtual film screenings.

[00:20:32.348] Joe Hunting: That's right. Yeah, it was incredible to do two opening ceremonies this time. I think, you know, it's an extremely special event that Marou and I and I think the whole Raindance community, you know, those who are in the selection, but also friends of the festival who join us almost every year for the festivities and to celebrate the creativity this year. We just had a blast and it was a treat to do it twice this year.

[00:20:54.067] Mária Rakušanová: And also, I want to give a huge shout out to the rest of the team. So this is the first year where it's no longer just Joe and I. Oh, that's right.

[00:21:02.491] Joe Hunting: Yes.

[00:21:02.851] Mária Rakušanová: Trophy Ginger, our producer. Big shout out to Trophy. Big shout out to Fangs, who has been recording artist interviews. So when you are following us on socials, you will see lots of wonderful interviews that she shot, especially with virtual world builders, but also some of these live performance groups as well. And then Max and Carlos, who are on camera capturing our events live on YouTube, especially our Joe's Q&As with the filmmakers.

[00:21:31.572] Joe Hunting: Yes. Yeah, we wouldn't be able to pull off all of the events that we have this year, which is quite a lot without Tropifangs, Carlos, Max, they're doing amazing.

[00:21:39.592] Mária Rakušanová: Yeah, and we have programmed 40 events, well, a bit more than 40 events. And most of them, maybe except five, are actually publicly available for anyone with a VR headset to book. The festival is free. So just go to raindanceimmersive.com, browse through the 40 experiences, see the ones that you like, and there is always an Eventbrite link. And if, obviously, you have a headset at home, then you can join us.

[00:22:08.778] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, I wanted to get a little bit of historical context for making films in VR. I did a little bit of research ahead of our conversation here just to see this as a trend as it was emerging. I know, Joe, you just announced on October 26th that you started a new virtual reality production company called Painted Clouds. That's right. there in Variety. I remember going back to Fia's opening of the virtual reality show, the TVRS space. And then there was a whole theater and that was in September of 2022. And then in October, she did a screening of The Promise. And then later, I guess it was on February 25th of 2023, there was 14 films that she screened. I was talking to Ariel Emerald after the screening of Ulterior Motive there at Raindance. Ariel was saying that that event that VIA had with the TVRS showcase back in February was a big catalyzing moment that led to the founding of a Discord. So you decided to go and start a whole production company yourself. And so I'm wondering if you could give a bit more context for how you've seen this as a trend within the VRChat community of more people using their filmmaking skills to make films. You obviously created your own film with We Met in Virtual Reality, but now you're doing Painted Clouds. And yeah, just love to hear how you see this evolution of this trend of folks making 2D films within VRChat that you wanted to feature here this year.

[00:23:34.261] Joe Hunting: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for allowing me to kind of spotlight this for a moment. So I founded Painted Clouds in 2021. That's the end of last year, around the time I was releasing and getting ready to premiere We Met in Virtual Reality. And the studio was founded with the intention of leading my next project, which is a much more ambitious, much wider project. And it's a narrative series with all original characters filmed in all original worlds or environments or film sets. and needing a bit more of a collaborative environment to facilitate that. Obviously, I'll be directing it and leading the project myself, but I need to work with people for this. I need collaborators and actors and other studio support and funding, and so it only felt right to be in the context of a studio in that regard. That was the main reason, but also having a studio and a name would also facilitate the celebration of other people's work. I've been doing a lot of teaching since premiering We Met in Virtual Reality, and I've been really enjoying educational work and just helping to foster this medium of filmmaking and helping others use it and create a breadth of projects that isn't just from my own imagination. And so that's also part of the studio's ethos and wanting to host workshops and, you know, even produce other people's work and kind of help facilitate some funding or expertise that I can offer. So that's a little bit about Painted Clouds and obviously hosting Raindance and being a part of it has really helped push that forward. And in terms of my own work and connecting with Ariel, like you mentioned, but also Kang, Drowns, Baby Bonito, Danny Gray, so many other filmmakers that are showing works in the selection this year that really deserve to have a spotlight and have their work shown. To talk a bit more about the historical context of VR filmmaking, I came into VR in 2018 with the intentions of making films and released my first film in 2019 and then released my second in 2020. And for me, the turning point was in 2020. And just to mention festivals and distribution, I actually hosted what may be, I'm not going to say it is, but may be the first film festival in VRChat, which was the Discover Film Festival, which was a kind of a UK-based film distributor that funded a series that I was making. I hosted a film festival for them in early 2020. And then we had the VRCon film festival, which I curated, the first one. And then I know PK, who was in the Raindance selection this year, PK hosted a short film festival. And then we had the second VRCon festival. And then, as you mentioned, It was last year we had, was it last year, the virtual reality show at the FIAS Film Festival? Or was that earlier this year?

[00:26:18.899] Kent Bye: She opened her space in September of 2022. She showed The Promise in October of 2022. And then she had her showcase on February 25th, 2023.

[00:26:29.304] Joe Hunting: Right, yes. I think we had Discover Film Festival, VRCon that were both curated by myself, and then these other two. I think FIIA's festival came at the perfect time, right at the time when people had gotten accustomed with the new VRChat camera, but also much more accustomed to VRC Lens. When that camera first came out, I didn't know many people were using it. I felt like quite a rare breed in terms of being completely obsessed with it. But now, you know, we have so many filmmakers and they're all experts with this camera and wanting to push it and using it in their work. And there's more films out there that's feeding inspiration. And so the trend just picked up and Fierce Festival came at such a perfect time, so I'm not surprised that it was the catalyst that founded the VRChat Filmmaker Discord. And that Discord allowed for all of this talent to communicate. I think VRChat Filmmakers were siloed for a long time. and not collaborating so often. And I think this Discord was a great idea and was really pioneered by Kong Liu and Ariel and Gab, shout out to those three, and many other filmmakers for creating that space and wanting to host meetups for people to grow and connect. I know that's been really good for me to meet other people and that's going to continue to help foster the community. So Yeah, this year has been such a big year for filmmaking. And that's why, as Maria mentioned, following trends, wanting to celebrate the community and keeping an eye out for what's going on. We had to celebrate that community and what's going on.

[00:27:58.152] Mária Rakušanová: And equally, it was super exciting to actually host a two-day Raindance immersive summit. So that's an annual symposium of talks that we do. And this year it was longer than usual. It's typically a one-day thing, but this year we extended it to two days and we dedicated one full day to just virtual filmmaking. And Raindance is not just a film festival, it's also a film school running an MA program and lots of like evening classes and short courses. And we had an audience full of filmmakers for whom seeing, you know, these films and music videos and then equally, I was the real life host or physical host, Joe was the avatar host with all the other filmmakers appearing on screen from within VR chat as avatars. they were absolutely mind blown that this is happening, this is something that you can start doing today. And one of the most heartwarming moments was when I was obviously I was photographing the events, posting pictures on our Discord, keeping the filmmakers kind of up to date as to what is happening. There was a father and perhaps like a 10 year old son, I think boy must have been like 10 years old, front row and they sat there from morning till evening and very clearly the dad was a DOP because he was giving a little commentary to the boy and the boy was just fixated on screen and perhaps he plays Roblox at home, I don't know but I'm pretty sure so. You and the crew and everyone else very much inspired this 10-year-old boy.

[00:29:33.930] Joe Hunting: Yes, yes. That makes me so happy. And if I may go on a tangent, actually, just speaking on trends, I think something that I noticed over the years is a relatability and more of, I guess, a relation to filmmakers looking at their favorite live action films, physical films, animated films, and really applying those techniques, you know, typical live action cinematic workflows to what they're doing in VRChat. I think back in 2019 or 2018, VRChat filmmaking was treated perhaps more like machinima. It was really about VRChat. It was a lot of short form content. It was a lot of comedy. It was a slapstick. But then from 2020 to now, I've had more creative conversations about directors and influences and how you're trying to achieve different techniques and angles in a much more cinematically driven way than it was previously, where it was more comedy driven. And that's really exciting to me, obviously, as someone who cares deeply about story and wanting to tell serious cinematic stories, but in a playful, joyful, immersive way. So that's just something I wanted to mention, just in terms of the kind of serious... I don't like using the word serious, that feels kind of... doesn't feel quite right. The artistic values that the community are putting into their work now,

[00:30:54.853] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. And I had a chance to watch through all the films and music videos that have been released so far. There's one that has yet to premiere at this point. So those nine, and then I watched through 13 of the ones that were at Fia's and there's quite a large and broad range of different genres and different techniques. And I felt that the ones that I'm particularly interested in is kind of the emerging genres of things that are reflecting unique aspects of VR chat culture that feel like this blend between like documentary versus more of a fictionalized aspect of that. Ulterior motive is the one that I'm thinking about in that context. But maybe it's worth with the rest of the time that we have here to talk about the entirety of the program and other things that we want to spotlight, just because it's unique because there are so many of these different worlds that people can go experience themselves. And so I think it would be worth talking about these different selections and kind of highlighting things that you want to point people to, especially because there's some stuff that people can just go see on their own at any time. But there's other things that they may need to have a ticket to go see a specific performance. So if they want to see it, they better get on the list and get signed up and it's free for anybody to go and sign up for the event. Right. You just have to get in there, get in early and then get registered. And then we can start to talk about different aspects of this year's program.

[00:32:13.443] Mária Rakušanová: That's right.

[00:32:14.464] Kent Bye: Sure.

[00:32:15.884] Mária Rakušanová: Yeah, so obviously there are five games that you can, some of them have been already released on Steam and Meta platforms, so I highly encourage everybody to buy a copy of that game. We are a free festival, but we're championing independent game studios and creators. Please purchase their games, they are wonderful. And then those that are yet to release, you'll have to wait till next year. The ones that are already out are The Seventh Guest that basically was released on Steam and MetaQuest and PlayStation VR through the week before our festival. kicked off, then you have Broken Spectre. This is a very interesting one, actually, because one of the executive producers of Broken Spectre was also the executive producer on the Blair Witch Project that Raindance screened back in the 90s. And I always love seeing filmmakers or creators coming back, especially from that long time ago. And they're now establishing a new genre within VR gaming called cosmic horror. So those of you who haven't played the game, please buy it. It's out on App Lab. And then Max Mustard, that's going to come out, I believe, Q1 next year, a really fun platformer game. Retropolis 2, Never Say Goodbye, beautiful kind of noir puzzle game. It's also still in development. That should also come out either still Q4 this year or early next year. And Tin Hearts, that will also come out sometime next year. And they're developing it right now for PC, VR, and PlayStation VR, too. A beautiful kind of narrative adventure game. Now, the virtual worlds that are out there that you can visit. So it's Astral Bound, Cerulean Tide. It's kind of like a beautiful open world adventure world. Lots of magic, and wonder, and particle effects. And you kind of find little clues, and you interact with them. And then that triggers various beautiful animations and particle effects. Very, very rewarding virtual world. Then we have District Roboto Complex 7 by a prolific and by now I think quite known creator Finns. And he just finally finished this virtual world. It actually released on 3rd of November. So just as we were opening the festival. So it's out there for anyone to experience. Also Horse Canyon by Anne Prowler. This is the third time we're actually showcasing his work at the festival. We are huge fans and he kind of started with these open world nature worlds. Actually, Joe discovered him and it's... That's right, yeah. fun to see him come up with this open world, Western themed, almost like theme park, virtual world with here and there there's like video players around the world scattered around and you can play these kind of like spaghetti Western music videos.

[00:35:15.774] Joe Hunting: It's very inspired by Western film and the kind of idea of the Wild West. So it feels very cinematic when you're riding around there.

[00:35:24.023] Mária Rakušanová: Yeah, and we will have a playthrough with M. Prowler, just go on to the Horse Canyon website within RaindanceInvasive.com. And Astro Bounds and District Roboto tours with the creators were actually, they already happened this weekend. And then still to come, so this Saturday we'll have a playthrough of Magnetize. kind of like puzzle game meets virtual world adventure also in VRChat by Juice and Delta Never Used. Very, very talented creators. I don't want to spoil it. It's a lovely puzzle adventure with some optical illusions. And then one other really, really exciting project and virtual world is called This World Will Be Deleted in 24 Hours. which is a very special project within virtual world building, just because it's very experimental. So the project was born in February and sometimes I'm a little crazy and I'm sometimes a little too much into VR. So it was Saturday night in the UK when this world dropped. And a friend of mine just kind of brought it to my attention. So I hopped in and I'm like, this world will be deleted in 24 hours. So I thought that, you know, after 24 hours, this world is deleted. And oh, my God, I need to hop in and potentially stay awake for 24 hours to find out what this world is all about. And there we are with my friend, and there is a red button at the spawn point. So we run around the world. There's a bit of story, but more just like a set design and a bit of teasing, like, hmm, there's a story to come, so let's wait. What's going to happen? And there is a countdown. And then 10 minutes later, the countdown restarts. And we were completely confused, like, what has just happened? So then we were starting to go to various instances of the world. And then we figured that Anybody across any instance of this world who presses the red button restarts the counter and thus helps to save the world. I mean, what an original idea. I instantly connected with the creator, Crazy Room, very, very talented creator. who actually, you know, in between he did another very experimental project that was fun as well. But I got specifically interested in this because first and foremost, this world has now been alive for several months since February. earlier this year, and throughout 24 hours, someone from somewhere always presses the button. So I was like, crazy, let's do something crazy for Raindance, and let's invite people to spend 24 hours in VR, those who dare, to actually finally find out the story. So this weekend, midnight UK time, which is symbolic, because of, you know, GMT time zone, he will publish a very special build of the world where the red button will only be pressable or activated during the final 24th hour. So now for the first time we can go in and out of the world and finally see, you know, not just our 24, 3, 21 or whatever, I think the countdown went the lowest was, I think, the 19th hour, but all the way to 24 hours. And then 24 hours later, we'll have a little group of people to ceremonially open this very special build of the world. And then 24 hours later to ceremonially get together and then together press that button and save the world. And finally, we will know the story. So I'm very excited about this project, particularly because it's just so fun and experimental. And I can't really name you a VR experience that would necessarily have a 24 hour gameplay, other than, I don't know, something very open world that you of course can play for 24 hours.

[00:39:02.453] Joe Hunting: The devouring, if you're not very good at puzzles.

[00:39:05.463] Kent Bye: Yeah. Uh, there was actually a piece called Godwanna that played at Sundance a number of years ago, where it showed the simulation of global warming over the course of a hundred years, but it was spread over the course of 24 hours. So you would jump in at certain moments and you could see different aspects of the rainforest that was degrading over time. So you'd get less robust ecosystems. The sound design would change and also the visual would change based upon the projections of climate change. That was a piece called Godwana, which was a 24 hour durational piece in VR where you could jump in and out. So there has been some before, but I'd be curious to see that.

[00:39:43.051] Mária Rakušanová: This is in social VR now.

[00:39:44.792] Kent Bye: Right. We just covered the best immersive worlds, which all those are in VRChat. And then if we go to the best immersive experience, we have four VRChat worlds and then one from Neos VR with Resonite. So we talked about these briefly, but I don't know if you want to mention anything else with Rise of Atlantis, Darkwood Manor, Fail to Render, God as a DJ, and the VR Japan tours.

[00:40:05.215] Mária Rakušanová: Yeah, certainly. So Darkwood Manor performance happened already this past Saturday, but failed to render. Actually, that one is booked out, but that is to come still, as well as God is a DJ, which will be a replay of a very unique show, which was created by prolific music world builder, creative DJ, DJ, and you name it, PK. And last December, the frontman of a British band, Faithless, died, Maxi Jazz. And PK and I were just kind of reminiscing on Fateless on Discord, and we were quite sad, actually, that he died. And we were like, hmm, PK, maybe you should do something. And then he was like, yes, I want to do a show. Let me do a show. And he was meant to do a show just within a couple of days. And then his ambition has just grown and grown and grown over time. A couple months later, finally the show was born and it's very poetic and it's a narrative journey. And I'm very, very happy. I reached out to the band Fateless and they responded to me. So in a couple of weeks, I'm going to go to their music label with headsets. And Zaron, who is the co-VJ and co-lead artist on the piece, he's actually based in Sheffield in the UK. The two of us will go and actually put Sister Bliss and Rollo into VR headsets and they will get to meet PK and some of the other collaborators on the project, which really warms my heart because I love connecting creators with creators and Who knows, maybe, hopefully, we'll sparkle some inspiration for Faithless and maybe their music video to do something, even in VRChat, who knows. Then the next one is Rise of Atlantis, which I got to preview in Nios, but then in the meantime, a new platform, Resonite, was born. And it's actually the result of a less than 24 hour game jam. So big shout out to Medra, who is a community builder on Neos and now in Resonite. And he's a catalyst in that community and he also holds this annual game jam and challenge and awards on the platform. So he got together a couple of world builders from within NEOS with various skill sets, and within 24 hours, the virtual world was born. And first time when I was previewing it, he was more showing it to me for consideration for Best Immersive World, but the environmental storytelling of that world was just so strong that, I don't know, I was just madder. This cries to be a live immersive performance. Potentially, maybe you could write a poem and have a live narrator and then you create a new genre. So, I don't know, we were just both inspired during that mutual meeting and And actually, yeah, a live narrated poem was born. And the poem is narrated by Marinda Botha, who is one of the lead actors inside the meta movie Alien Rescue. So I'm very excited to see Marinda come back as a voice of Rise of Atlantis. Two out of the four shows are already booked. So please go on Reynaldsimmersive.com. The booking links are all posted there. Highly encourage you to come and see this beautiful experience. and get familiar with Resonite. And let's help Resonite to grow and flourish. And then last but not least, VR Japan tours under the autumn moon. They will also have four shows from within VRChat. Very unique because it on one hand, you know, as audience members will get to learn a unique aspect about Japanese culture. And at the same time, we also get to see a beautiful dance performance as well. And both will take place in two different virtual worlds that the five member core team have created. They were also born just, I believe, in January this year. So these are also very, very brand new team. And this is their second show. And they custom created it for rain dance. And because our festival takes place in the autumn, fall season, hence the kind of artistic direction VR Japan tours under the autumn moon to celebrate the Moon Festival in Japan. Then there is a few more live music shows. There is. I'd like to invite you, there's plenty. So we'll kick off this Sunday. We will have Project Synthetica Symmetry by a world builder and DJ Hysterium in collaboration with another fantastic DJ inside VRChat platform called Electro and two of their VJ friends. And there is a lore and a narrative going on where, you know, imagine 1000 years in the future, you pass a job interview and you get recruited by the tech company of that time. And you are going through a simulation training, which is actually this very rave performance in VRChat. And in many ways, it's a great one hour, almost like a summary of, you know, if you've never been to a rave club in VRChat, And you don't even know where to go because there is so many fantastic sub-communities that were born from various clubs. This is a good way to just come in, dive in for an hour and get that vibe, get that feel for what it's like to go to a virtual rave in VR. And extra shout out to Hysterium, who kind of very spontaneously became the world builder of one of our festival worlds this year. So he also has his own club called Subliminal. Many, many, many projects in the making that have this live music, electronic music component. And I went to the opening of Subliminal, I believe it was in March this year. It was fantastic. It was really, really fun. And what made it different and special from other clubs that it felt like going raving and take modern because the whole space looks very much like a brutalist concrete building art gallery. And he even had some like art sculptures. around that space. And Synthetica is a very different show because it has an underlying narrative. So it's kind of interesting to see that every project he does is very different. And then when we collaborated on our festival world for 2023, we kind of kept it true to his kind of brutalist art gallery style, which lends itself really well for a festival world because we're presenting the posters of 40 experiences and you really, really want those experiences to shine. So this kind of brutalist space with brutalist architecture lends itself really well. So that is Project Synthetica Symmetry and Hysterium, very talented musician, DJ, and world builder. And then we also have Equilibrium, PK's next show coming up, which I'm very excited about because for the first time he's also recorded actors and performers. And the show is still in development, so I've only got to see some snippets. And he also has a couple of tailbrush artists who are creating scenes. So shout out to Ders, who is one of them. I had a little preview of the scene that Ders is building using tailbrush, and it's very, very beautiful. And I'm sure with If Zaron is VJ, that world will be lit up and there will be lots of very strong visual effects, which is very quintessentially PK. That's very kind of typical for his shows. So yeah, that will be really, really exciting. I'm looking forward to that. And he will also have, I believe, five different DJs. So overall, it's kind of like a musical journey. Then shout out to Cyrax with his new show called Iridescence. I'm very, very inspired by Cyrax because he is one person who's a music composer and DJ and a world builder. And he's also built several very popular games on VRChat. And actually his profession in the real world, if I may say so, he's a lighting designer. And it really, really shows. His shows are very, very visual, like lots of VFX. sound effects as well. And it took about seven months of development time to bring this show to life. So yeah, very excited to have him in our selection again. Last year we had his previous show in the selection. And then we have Capsule Live Metropulse. So Capsule, they are an electro-pop music duo from Japan. And this is the first time they are bringing their show into VRChat. And it very much feels like a musical album. So there will be five tracks. played throughout this show and, you know, each of them has a new scene, new narrative. So it's quite theatrical. It's kind of like a theatrical album launch in social VR and very fun, very beautiful as well. And then Amoka, they are basically a J-pop band that was born in VRChat. They were the ones that actually opened our very, very first Asian festival opening. So they were the live act for the morning opening this past weekend.

[00:49:43.732] Kent Bye: Great. And Joe, I'd love to bring you in and maybe you could talk about some other aspects of the selection this year that we have both the immersive art experiences, and then we have the both the videos, but also the immersive narratives. I don't know if you want to jump in here as well.

[00:49:58.479] Joe Hunting: Yes, yes. Let's give Maria's voice a rest. I think carrying on with Emoka, it's a nice segue to talk about our best music video of VR category. But before I do, I want to say that all of our VRChat film screenings are going to be hosted inside the Virtual Film Institute this year, or otherwise known as the VFI, which is heavily inspired by the BFI in London, the BFI IMAX cinema specifically. So It's been super fun to decorate that world with the Raindance immersive branding and make it our own. And I want to give a huge credit to the creator of that world. Her name is Lucy Liu, and she's gone above and beyond to facilitate that cinema for all of our screenings and Q&As. And just to mention how those events run, they are also on Eventbrite on reindartsimassive.com. So as Maria said, please go there and you can find those. Some have already happened. So I'll start with best music video of VR. The music video by Amoka, which is called Alba, the screening of that has already happened. But the music video is on YouTube. and is available to watch and is extremely poetic and mysterious. It's filmed in a world called Organism by Dr. Morrow, and that world won Best Immersive World last year, so a wonderful kind of callback to another world that we've celebrated in the festival before. Moving on, another music video in that category is called Golden Hour by Danny Gray, and that's being screened this Friday, so quite soon, in a couple of days. But it's going to be kind of a beautiful, warm, romantic video about two lovers on a date, it feels. And then moving on to Witchcraft by Evan, which is complete left turn, extreme mixed media. It's a psychedelic trip. through these Shibas or these kind of Shiba dog characters performing some sort of ritual in a war crisis against robots. I'm probably not doing it justice in my words, but you absolutely have to watch it. And that was also up on YouTube now for anyone who's interested. And we're going to be screening that in a couple of weeks. Another music video we have in the selection is Light and Void Evil by Astral Melodia, and that video is also filmed inside Organism and is equally as poetic to Alba by Amoka, but it's much more about mental health and struggling with your inner demons and battling yourself, which I really loved the themes of. And lastly in our music video category we have The Adventurer by Lidifer, And that is an epic journey, saga of two people battling. And I think it's part of a greater story. I'm sure Lidefer is going to talk about this in his Q&A, but it really goes through a story through the music video. I'm not going to do a great justice in my words, so please watch it. It's on YouTube. All of the music videos I just mentioned are all on YouTube and you can find them at rainedownsimmersive.com. I'll move swiftly into best short film of VR, which is our separate category that celebrates more narrative-driven films. The first one I'll mention is A Snapshot of You by Buddy Ball. It's a very short film. It's romantic. It's got a really interesting form that really feels quite gamey and quite inspired by the internet and the way we interact. It's very text-based with a lot of subtitles, and I think is very relative to this generation. And yeah, I think that Q&A is going to be really interesting. We're screening that this Friday alongside Golden Hour. So if you're listening to this, please come to our screening for that. Next I'll talk about is a premiere short film. It's going to be premiering this Saturday in the VFI cinema called Emergence by Kang Liu. And this is, I don't want to say too much because it's not out, but it is a crime thriller. and really pushes cinematic storytelling. I feel it's incredibly graded and directed with quite an amazing cast to watch. And so I'm really looking forward to seeing people's reactions to that film, especially, and to speak about amazing casting. I'm excited to mention another film we have in the category called Sheba Squad Survivor by Drowns. And this film, it certainly has over 20 characters, and they're all Sheba dogs. And it's really, it's quite a slapstick take on survivor reality shows, somewhat a mockumentary, you know, it's a narrative fiction about a bunch of Sheba dogs stranded on an island battling in trying to win a prize. and it's really fun and it just shows the playfulness and comedy that can be found, especially with filming inside VRChat and using avatars as a vessel for story. Next, we have a documentary. Obviously, if I'm helping to curate this category, there's going to be a documentary in it. And the one we have is The Painters of Virtual Reality by Baby Bonito. And this documentary celebrates a darling community of artists who meet up and paint in VR together. And it's a really warm documentary that celebrates that artistry and way of connecting with each other through art. And lastly, we have Ulterior Motives that also screened alongside Alba over the last weekend by Ariel Emerald, an amazing social realist film that really tackles the genuine VR chat clubbing scene and is also filmed in actual clubs a lot of the time when they were running events and is both a portrait of VR chat and the VR chat rave scene, but also a compelling narrative of a woman trying to find themselves and experiment. So all of these films, as I mentioned, some of them have already been screened at the VFI, but many of them are still going to be screened and all of them will be screened alongside a Q&A with the directors and a lot of the cast. And if you can't make it to our screenings, I want to mention that all of the screenings and Q&As will be streamed live on our Raindance Immersive YouTube channel. So please find our Raindance Immersive YouTube channel and you can either watch them live or you can watch the archive of those Q&As. So we're trying to make those conversations as accessible as possible.

[00:56:00.168] Kent Bye: I just wanted to jump in there quickly before we move on to the next sections and just say that it was really great to be able to go into a VR chat theater with the Virtual Film Institute, the VFI and to see a screening with other people. I did end up turning my earmuffs on and having it so that I wasn't hearing other people. Cause I felt like I still wanted to have that. But that's the great thing about VRChat is you can really customize your experience and you can see with a group of people and hear the reactions, but also have the Q&A there at the end. And then I actually, as I was watching all the other pieces, I jumped into another VRChat world and popped the YouTube links into a player. I didn't see the virtual film Institute allowed you to enter into YouTube links, but I went into another theater and watched some of the other ones. And then I ended up watching the ones on virtual desktop from Thea's selection. But I would recommend checking out at least some of those different screenings, just to have that film festival experience, especially with the Q and a and discussion that happens afterwards. It definitely is recreating what you would experience at any other major film festival with going to a screening and being able to actually hear from the makers and hear more about their process and different decisions that they made along the way. So I really appreciated that element of recreating the festival experience there here at Raindance this year.

[00:57:18.572] Joe Hunting: That really warms my heart so much, Kent. Thank you so much for saying that. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of festivals and have been to many film festivals, screened my own film, done a lot of Q&As, and I was so excited to be on the other side, interviewing other filmmakers and engaging in conversations and having their films celebrated on such a big screen as well. I really wanted to create that atmosphere and create that creative energy and allow them to speak professionally for a good 30 minutes about their ideas, their influences, and the way they constructed it, because that's going to inspire other people and help to foster this form of filmmaking. So that makes me so happy. And yeah, I hope other people can feel that when coming to our screenings.

[00:57:59.159] Kent Bye: Yeah. So if you don't get a chance to actually attend it live, there will be the live streams that you can check out in the Radiance channel to be able to see some of those discussions if you weren't able to make the screenings. So yeah, I guess I'll pass it back over to Maria if you wanted to continue on with the last two sections here.

[00:58:12.397] Mária Rakušanová: The last two word categories and sections. So Best Immersive Narrative, this year we're presenting four single-player animation projects, and one is also a game, and one social VR narrative. So I'll start with the social VR narrative. It's called Marmovers Under the Pillow, created by Georgi Molotsov, who actually has been in the director's seat last year for Oxymore, the live music show by Jean-Michel Jarre. And this is his own independent production. And his father actually wrote the children's story 30 years ago about kitten Mormitten. And obviously it's a little kitten, and there is a brother and a sister, which was actually Georgi and his little sister. And this was, these were like heartwarming stories for as a kind of like a love letter from their father to Georgi and his sister. And he obviously still have these written stories by his father, who actually was a prolific Russian journalist, apparently. And he now revived them as an animated series. So there is a 3D animation series. He's also in production for a VR game. And for our Raindown Simissive 2023 festival, he actually brought the story into VRChat, where you get to see a little bit of a snippet of the 3D animated film to really bring you into the world of Kitten, Mormitton and Gosha and Yulia, the two siblings. And then you get to go on a quest and a little adventure that you have to complete in VRChat. And then you get to learn the second chapter and the third chapter and the fourth chapter. And it's really interesting to see someone bringing like a children's story into VR, especially into social VR. And we will have actually a playthrough with Georgi this Friday. And then the single-player ones are 40 Days Without the Sun. This was hand-drawn in Quill by the creator himself, who actually used to work for Árvore, the Brazilian gaming studio. And Jao, this is actually a very personal story of his. which basically captures a moment in time for his family, for his wife and daughter during the pandemic, where sadly his wife had a miscarriage and they lost a baby boy. But, you know, it's on one hand, it is a sad story, but it's created and told in a very, very, very poetic way. And the story kind of unfolds in front of your eyes. So this is something that we showcased at the physical festival. And the link is live on our website. you need to use the VR animation app on MetaQuest. And it's available both in English and Brazilian Portuguese. And it's a beautiful story. Then we have Aiel, created by actually a student in a university in Scotland, a PhD student, who actually won his previous animated experience, a student BAFTA. That's how I discovered him. So it's called Isle, it's based on a Scottish folk story and interestingly enough the theme of family and love is just somehow prevalent across the narrative category because it's about a family who lose their mother and then the brother and sister and father are sad and then the brother and sister go and play in the forest and then here comes this Kelpie who steals the sister and kidnaps the sister. And then the little brother becomes the hero of the story and saves the sister. And it's very, very poetic as well. And it was built in Unreal Engine. And we also showed it at our physical festival. And I'm sure Austin, the creator, will eventually release it on Steam because his previous production is already released on Steam. Then we have Where is Noddy? This is a production from Taiwan. Also very personal to the director, who is a father. And during the pandemic, he used to play hide and seek with his son and the siblings. And here you get to experience the game of hide and seek through various children's perspectives. And there's a bunch of them. And the oldest sister is obviously the one that tries to kind of find the various siblings. And Noddy, he's the youngest sibling, and this is the first time he wins the game because he hides very well. And then last but not least, we have Behind the Frame, Finest Scenery VR. This is actually a game, but very, very much of a narrative-driven game. And this is a recreation of a flat game coming into VR. You're a girl painter and aspiring painter. And the creators call this game as not point and click in VR, but paint and click. So you get to paint and then you get to click on a lot of objects and those objects reveal the story, which is also fun and beautiful. And then last but not least, best immersive art experience that thank you so much, Kent. You're one of our wonderful jurors of this category. Very excited for that. So here we are presenting three social VR art experiences from inside VRChat, one social VR art experience from Engage, and one is a single player experience that is yet to come out on Steam. So I'll start with the one that's yet to come out on Steam, actually, I believe in Q4. this year. It's a Mutech production, so the Canadian Music and Technology Festival. One of their selections is called Entanglement, and it basically is a visualization of quantum physics created by Franz Jobim, who created the music. There's an original music score and Marcus Heckman, who built the actual visualization and the experience. Then we have Dragon Magic, which is a social VR experience inside Engage by a very, very talented artist who created this beautiful dragon-like sculpture in Tilt Brush that you can actually visit various parts of this sculpture that of course, you know, the whole experience is in the end a virtual world. And Juliana is very, very fun to join on a tour because it's always, you know, it feels like joining an artist in an art gallery and having them narrate their art. And she's very good at that. And also shout out to Chris and Mada from Engage who helped her to bring this to life and they finessed and polished the user experience and really made sure that you have a very, very fun and delightful experience on the English platform. And then three from Inside VRChat to conclude, Beyond a Bit, created by very prolific VRChat world builder from Japan called Esti Oktober, plus all his collaborators. This, in essence, is a virtual world that has a very, very strong musical component and a kind of a journey-esque component. So you're basically on a journey. You come together as a group of friends. you have to activate this experience by touching kind of like a treasure box. And it's about a 10 minute kind of musical kind of sonic and visual experience. And I do see this as a whole as art or digital art. And I would love, you know, some curators from art galleries or people who curate digital art to actually come and experience this and see this and ideally even get inspired to start bringing these kind of virtual worlds into art galleries, because I think there is definitely a new genre to be discovered. And, you know, whether you're an art lover or whether you're just a family who loves going to art galleries with your kids, I think this is something that's really interesting for audiences and art lovers alike. And then, last but not least, we have one yet-to-be-announced experience, also by a Japanese creator, who last year created a project on VRChat called Metamorphoses, so it will be within that series, without any spoilers. And then finally, another comeback to Raindance, Jessie N. Huang, a Chinese worldbuilder and artist, who won a Raindance Award back in 2018, during our physical festival, is now back as a VRChat world builder and a virtual art curator. So the piece is called Virtual Museum of Virtual Art Presents Thickness of Calligraphy. So in essence, this is an art gallery space inside VRChat. And it tells the story of a Chinese calligraphy artist called Boyan, who is a pioneer of 3D calligraphy, which of course lends itself really, really well into VR as a way to experience this new form of art. And Jesse also was very diligent and was able to tell the story of the artist, a personal story. And he started researching 3D calligraphy during pandemic. So there's a personal element of the artist, as well as there is throughout the virtual world, there are various techniques explained. So it also has a huge educational value teaching us about 3D calligraphy and the various techniques that Boyan explored and discovered. And of course, it's an ongoing journey. The journey doesn't end at the Virtual Museum of Virtual Art. He's also very active on Instagram. So that concludes our 4D experience.

[01:07:59.926] Joe Hunting: There we have it. The long list is there.

[01:08:04.632] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, that's a great overview. And like we said at the top, a lot of these are available. There are some performances that have already happened or performances that are sold out, but many of them are still available for folks to go check out and, you know, dive into some of these different worlds and experiences. And especially with, you know, three quarters happening in the context of VRChat. Some of them are the films that you can go watch on YouTube. But yeah, really quite a great selection. I always enjoy curators like yourself that are at the frontiers of tuning into. I think this year, having so many of them reflecting what's happening in the social VR space, it's just nice to have the different independent artists and creators be highlighted. And I think there's a bit of a excitement that I've seen cultivated within the context of these VRChat world builders who then deliberately time the releases of their worlds and their projects to be ready for Raindance. So you've managed to really carve out a spot where you get a lot of premieres and new worlds, but also just reflecting on the amazing work that's happening in this space. So always appreciate being able to check out both the performances and the experiences and yeah, just also appreciate recapping all these. And so I guess as we start to wrap up, I'd love to hear any final thoughts of the selection, but also what each of you think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable and you know, how this year's selection may be reflecting some of those ultimate potentials.

[01:09:31.656] Joe Hunting: That's it. That was the question. Me and Maria, we couldn't remember the question that you always ask at the end. You're like, what was it? It's the ultimate potential. But sorry, Maria, you were going to jump in.

[01:09:42.960] Mária Rakušanová: Personally, I'm very excited about live games in VR that have the potential to grow a community, foster a community, and platforms like any of these social VR platforms, especially VR chat, are a great manifestation of that. I am looking forward to actually when VRChat also launch their creator monetization and creator economy. Of course, it may change a little bit the fabric of the platform and the audience, but I want these independent creators to be able to make a full-time job, a full-time living out of this, whether it's a world builder or whether it's a cabaret operator or comedy club. And at the same time, I would be very, very curious to see some of the more established gaming studios who may have already released, I don't know, up to 10 games on VR platforms to actually perhaps come and try and launch games on VRChat and see whether that could be another good monetization stream for them. In addition to that, also very excited for mixed reality experiences. There is obviously Vision Pro coming. That will, of course, pose some challenges for physical exhibition. You will need bigger space. But at the same time, I'm pretty certain that we will see birth of new art form in MR, new tool sets, new ways of artists using this medium and also new artists collaborating together. So I think next year will be very, very exciting, especially on the MR front as well. So with now with the Questry that has just launched very recently.

[01:11:31.545] Joe Hunting: My closing thoughts would just be thank you to everyone that is a part of the festival this year, but also thank you to everyone that submitted and just crunched so hard to get the projects, you know, looked at by us and celebrated. People, as you said, can't really work towards Raindance and we have so much privilege and in respecting and seeing those work. So just thank you for everyone who's a part of our community. and the VR community in general. And then in terms of ultimate potential, I think last time we spoke, perhaps, or at least I've said before, I think immersive theatre was really up there for me in terms of ticketed events and going and watching performances, but also immersive theatre and taking part, like Metamovie and works from the Ferryman Collective. I was so excited about that. And I think Speaking more cinematically, another potential now is distribution with films and maybe doing ticketed screenings in cinemas. I think the VFI is a really interesting venue for that. And I'm really happy that Raindance is doing a little something for distribution just in terms of helping to celebrate and share these films. And so now I'm looking more at distribution of films made in VR, but also in a wider context, you know, YouTube, obviously, and ways in which we can broaden that horizon and get these looked at in a, in different contexts and in more festivals and more bespoke festivals as well. I think there's a lot of potential in terms of that genre and that form. Yes. Thank you for having us and thank you for this amazing conversation.

[01:13:00.502] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[01:13:05.932] Mária Rakušanová: We love you. Please keep on making experiments.

[01:13:11.554] Joe Hunting: Yeah, we'll see you in VR. We're both people who absolutely love this medium and love to be with people inside of it in a social way. And yeah, thank you for coming to see us.

[01:13:23.417] Kent Bye: Awesome. We'll definitely go check out the rain dance website. You can see the selection of each of the different pieces that we talked about. There's a page you can go and get connection details. If it's either an event or a world, you can get more information for how to get access to that. Like I said, a lot of them are available for folks to go check out and. Yeah, like I said, it's always great to be able to have a chance to hear from the curators and to talk about the trends that you're seeing in this year's selection. I think by expanding out into these new categories, you're reflecting some of the deeper trends that are happening in terms of independent artists and creators within these virtual platforms, both in the creating the immersive experiences themselves, but also the different types of cinematic stories and music videos that are being created in the context of these virtual worlds. Yeah, very much appreciate getting the latest insights for where things are at and where they're going. And yeah, very much encourage people to go check out all of these experiences as it's going on for the next four weeks now, as it's had the opening weekend, lots of really amazing experiences and performances that are already had a chance to participate and always love seeing the different worlds and the events. And it feels like going to a whole festival that has all these different events and folks to be able to have these shared experiences with each other. So, yeah, thanks again for joining me to help break it all down.

[01:14:40.597] Joe Hunting: Our pleasure. Thank you so much, Kent.

[01:14:42.959] Mária Rakušanová: Thank you, Kent.

[01:14:44.580] Kent Bye: So that was Maria Rakuchinova, as well as Joe Hunting. They're the co-curators of the Raindance Immersive. So just a few takeaways, which is that I had a chance to go to a number of the different events for Raindance Immersive and I have to say that it's always great to see some of the best in class of different immersive art, immersive performances, different music performances. You know, there's lots of different trends that are happening in the context of VRChat. And MarineDance is a really great way to dip into seeing what's happening with virtual culture, with these different independent creators, both from a world building perspective, which that's one of my favorite sections, just to see all the different immersive worlds that have been created and there's some really amazing experiences this year, as well as, you know, last year with Dr. Morrow and Organism, one of the winners from last year. And actually this year with a number of the different music videos, we're actually being inspired by some of these different immersive worlds and actually creating music and music videos around that as well. So I highly recommend going to the Raindance Immersive website. There's 40 different pieces that are in the selection. You can go to each of the different pages and get more information. Some of them are the films and you can click through and watch the YouTube videos there right in your browser, or you can get the connection information and jump on to VRChat or sign up to Eventbrite in order to go to some of the different performances. Some of them are guided tours that you can still go on your own to be able to see the different experiences. But if you do want to connect to other people within the rain dance community, as well as to take a tour or to go to a performance, then highly recommend going there and signing up for some of the different shows that are coming up. Like I said, I had a chance to go to the opening events and some of the initial performances. And yeah, it's always just really amazing to see what's happening at the frontiers of immersive art and entertainment and storytelling and performance. that's happening there within the context of VRChat. So definitely recommend going to check out their selection and really quite striking to me to see how three quarters of all the different selection this year is VRChat centric types of experiences with some traditional games and narratives as well. But, you know, for the most part, there's a lot of stuff that's happening in the context of VRChat and just lots of opportunities to jump in and check out some really amazing experiences. So I am about to hop on an airplane tomorrow to go to the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam for DocLab. It's one of my favorite festivals just to see the immersive nonfiction and digital storytelling and the spotlight highlighting a lot of the best immersive nonfiction pieces that have been appearing across the festival circuit. And so really looking forward to go checking out the latest selection and connecting different creators there and to do some coverage as well. So looking forward to coming back and sharing that when I get back. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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