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Raqi_SquareRaqi Syed and Areito Echevarria’s Minimum Mass is an emotional, immersive narrative that explores grief of miscarriage. They apply their visual effects knowledge gained from working at WETA Digital in New Zealand to push the real-time game engine to go beyond the cartoony, flat shader look. Syed is interested in exploring more photorealistic lighting in VR with a film noir style inspired by Todd Hido and dynamic lighting inspired by Lumia artist Thomas Wilfred.

AreitoEchevarria is also interested in researching how the proximity to characters in VR is correlated to the emotional impact of a story, and they’re experimenting with a rotation mechanic to rotate these table-top scale scenes within the experience. Having a table top scale allows a lot more agency for the viewer to walk around and act as a sort of cinematographer choosing the perspective that is the most appealing to them.

Minimum Mass was a part of the Tribeca Showcase at CannesXR 2020, and I had a chance to catch up with Echevarria and Syed to talk about their experiential design process, exploring metaphoric embodiment of grief through a sort of tentacle smoke, how they worked within the limitations of a real-time game engine of Unreal Engine, their process of working with actors in VR, their experimentation with using the world rotation mechanic to get the best perspective, the philosophy behind their lighting and fragmented black hole world to invoke a personal dream-like quality, and how they took inspiration from Jungian psychology and the alchemical principles of the reconciling third to resolve the tension of opposites.

It has one of the most distinctive styles that I’ve seen in VR, and it’s a powerful personal story about the trauma and grief of experiencing a miscarriage. Syed said that it’s the process is both retraumatizing, but also cathartic to be able to create a piece of art that becomes a point of conversation in something that is otherwise a pretty taboo topic. She says that good art requires that you have skin in the game, and that this work is a result of putting themselves out there to be public and vulnerable about a very difficult experience. Given that they were an independent production, then they were also freed from the overplanning that can happen in big film productions and they were able to follow their artistic intuitions in an iterative fashion. They described their process as a sort of deep, intuitive listening of what the piece was telling them what it wanted to be.

Minimum Mass is still available to see for free until July 3rd as a part of the Tribeca Showcase within the Museum of Other Realities.

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