#1119: Venice Immersive Preview with Co-Curators + Expanded VRChat World Gallery Exhibition

I get an overview of the Venice Immersive festival that’s taking place from September 1st to 10th with co-curators Liz Rosenthal and Michel Reilhac. There are 75 total experiences with 30 experiences in competition, 10 project in Best Of Immersive section, 30 VRChat worlds in the Worlds Gallery, 3 projects in the Biennale College Cinema VR section, 2 special music events in VRChat, and a special film screening of Joe Hunting’s We Met in Virtual Reality. Nearly all of the Venice Festival selections are primarily physical this year with the exception to some of the VRChat events and worlds.

We talk about some of the latest trends in immersive storytelling, and then give a sneak peak to 24 out of the 30 pieces in the competition. We didn’t have the time to do a comprehensive overview, but you can see the full selection here. We also talk about their efforts this year for hosting 8 different 75-minute worldhops in VRChat featuring a total of 30 worlds [you can find the links to the 30+ VRChat worlds down below]. They’ve hired 2 virtual docents per worldhop as a tour guide and a logistics wrangler, as well as a physical docent to help onboard people into these curated VRChat world hops.

I’ll be on site in Venice covering the festival, interviewing creators, and talking on a panel about reviewing immersive works on Saturday at 2:30p CEST.

Here are the VRChat Worlds selected as a part of the Venice Immersive 2022 (categorized by myself).

3 of 5 VRChat Worlds in Competition (launching September 1st)

Open Worlds

Spatial Journey + Narrative

Spatial Vignettes

Escape Room

Lighting Studies

Photogrammetry Worlds

Fractal Worlds

Shader Music Worlds

Music Performance + Spatial Journey


DJ club Special Live Performances

Here are the raw URLs of the VRChat experiences featured in the Worlds Gallery if you’d prefer to copy and paste into a URL opener:


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. So in today's episode, I'm getting a sneak peek of the Venice Immersive that's happening from September 1st to 10th. For the last couple of years, they've had a virtual component, but this year it's mostly physical. There are 30 VR chat worlds that are features as part of their worlds gallery that you can check out. And in fact, you can check out the show notes of this episode to get direct links to a lot of those worlds to check out for yourself, which I highly recommend. I'll give some recommendations of worlds that I particularly liked at the end of this episode. But I had a chance to talk to the co-creators of Liz Rosenthal and Michel Riak to be able to get a bit of the latest trends in immersive storytelling, but also what inspired them to have such a focus on VRChat. Not only do they have the VRChat World's Gallery, but the physical installations that they're having during the Venice Immersive It's actually going to have world hops that are put together by a guide that's going to be taking them through these different worlds. There's eight different world hops that go through the 30 different experiences, but they also have a logistics person to help out and also someone physically there to help get people into these VR chat worlds. So VR chat and the social VR ends up being a pretty big trend this year at the Venice immersive, but there's also five VR chat worlds in competition. two of them which are live performances and then three that are a part of the competition of 30 total different immersive experiences that are part of the competition. Venice, because they have a competition that is at the same level of the film, you end up getting a lot of really high-profile premieres and so I always love to make it out to the Venice. They're able to provide a hotel for me and I'm able to provide my own flight to get out to Venice and then be able to be there to check out the latest experiences and to connect to all the different immersive storytellers that are there. So I'll be going to Venice for a week from the 30th until September 6th. And on that Saturday, I'm actually going to be a part of a panel discussion talking about the art of reviewing immersive stories. So I look forward to being on site to see all these different experiences and to be able to talk to the creators that are there. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Liz and Michelle happened on Monday, April 15th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:21.118] Liz Rosenthal: Hi, I'm Liz Rosenthal. I'm the curator of Venice Immersive. So that's the immersive content section and competition for Venice International Film Festival.

[00:02:33.300] Michel Reilhac: And I'm Michel Reyak. I'm co-curator with Liz. We both curate this competition that we started now seven years ago within the frame of the International Film Festival in Venice, run by the Venice Biennale.

[00:02:48.786] Kent Bye: So maybe you could each give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into doing this type of curation.

[00:02:56.093] Liz Rosenthal: Sure. So I've been involved in new forms of storytelling for many years. My company, Power to the Pixel, ran incubator and accelerator programs for interactive, immersive storytelling over 10 years. And I also ran a big program called Power to the Pixel in London with the BFI London Film Festival. which was a forum and marketplace for new forms of storytelling. We used to gather people from all over the world and gather talents to first help develop projects and then to help them sustain and get them out into the marketplace and look at how these new cultural forms and formats were working. I also ran a program called Creative XR, which was an incubation accelerator program that was financed through the Arts Council England and Digital Catapult. and were involved in 60 projects altogether. And some of the notable projects that came up, for example, were Goliath that won the Grand Jury Prize in Venice last year, projects like Common Ground by Darren Emerson, and many, many others across different immersive formats.

[00:03:58.772] Michel Reilhac: And on my side, I've always been a sort of a hybrid person, being a dancer in New York in the 80s, and then at the same time, being a producer, both for performing arts internationally, and then progressively for film. I was the head of cinema for Arte, the French-German broadcaster company, co-producing about 30 feature films every year from all over the world and that's where I progressively started being interested since 2008 by hybrid storytellers that were using game dynamics and internet to tell their stories and found this to be totally fascinating. I resigned from my job at Arte at the end of 2012 to fully focus on creating, making, and producing hybrid stories. And that's when the Venice Biennale offered me the option to create a program for them with Savina Neroti called the Biennale College, which is a creative residential workshop where each year we invite 12 micro-budget feature films to be developed and refinanced. four of them. And aside from this, six years ago, we created the College VR, which also develops 12 VR projects internationally, out of which we'd select one every year that we finance entirely. So all my life, I've been a hybrid person, absolutely fascinated by things that do not exist yet, that are in the making, exploring how we can contribute to make it happen.

[00:05:32.694] Liz Rosenthal: Michelle and I actually met back in, I think it was 2007 and 2008, when I set up Power to the Pixel, and we've been friends and collaborators ever since. Because I also came from the film business, I forgot to say. That feels like another life, but I'm also fascinated by how you advance storytelling and art forms, and how you use new forms and tools to do that. So our paths crossed back then, and we've really been working together in different guises ever since.

[00:06:03.275] Kent Bye: That's great. Yeah. And I know that for the last two years, the pandemic has forced a lot of film festivals like yourself, what I guess used to be called the Venice VR Expanded. I guess now you're referring to it now as Venice Immersive. but the Venice VR immersive for the last two years has been virtual for people to have a selection. And you've also had a number of different satellite venues, but this year you're going back to the co-located physical event. And so maybe talk a bit about that decision to open back up and have more of a focus on the physicality and the installations that are happening in Venice, rather than having a co-production of both a virtual festival and a satellite venues as well.

[00:06:42.594] Michel Reilhac: Okay. I think there are two main reasons for this. One, we found that a lot of the proposals we received for our selection were installation-based, and this is something you can only present physically. This is something we were very frustrated we could not present in the past two years. Like you said, we had to be fully virtual. But there's another reason why we also gave up the idea of the satellites. It's linked to distribution. even though the market and distribution for immersive content, particularly creative non-game immersive content, is just starting to build and develop. It's a very, very small market for the moment. Still, we need to support all the efforts by the producers and the rights owners to try and build and grow and develop that market. And if we continue to have physical venues, 15 like we had last year and the year before, across the world, those venues would be already used opportunities for them to show their work and make a little bit of money by renting their experiences. So we decided to be fully in support of the artists and the producers by making our festival fully local. There's only a fraction that will be accessible online. And these are, I would say, the two main reasons. Would you agree, Liz?

[00:08:09.507] Liz Rosenthal: Absolutely. And also Venice is very much about bringing people together because Michelle mentioned about the college. We also have a market in Venice for projects that are in development. So we set up meetings between the projects that we selected for the market with guests that we invite across distribution, finance and exhibition. And it's a very important side that people gather in Venice. And also that we're covering every aspect of immersive format, which can only happen in real life. All of those activities, the networking, the seeing different forms of projects, which rely on being physically in real life or hybrid. And so in Venice, we have this amazing opportunity on the island. But also, as you mentioned, we were totally virtual over the last two years. And we really experimented and feel advanced in how audiences experiences projects on social VR platforms. And we're kind of excited because we've actually found a way to make that happen physically as well. But because it's such a huge work running a virtual event, and I think many festival organizers will say this, to actually run an entirely hybrid version is two different festivals and it would be impossible for us to fulfill that.

[00:09:27.106] Michel Reilhac: And there is, like Liz you just said, I mean I would just like to stress that we found that the serendipity that happens when you meet in a festival location is incredibly productive in terms of networking, in terms of finding out about artists, about work, and we want to make sure that happens. By making Venice Immersive a physical event, we hope that this will create a high motivation, high enough for everyone to come physically to Venice and participate in that closeness, in that networking, in that family feeling that you can only have in the real world.

[00:10:08.152] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's nice because the venue that you have is like on an Island. So what I noticed is different about the Venice experience is that once people are on that Island, they, they tend to kind of stick on that Island. Cause it is a bit of a journey to get there. And there's not really a lot of other stuff that's immediately around in that area, which serves the function of really creating this focused attention of people who are in the industry that are really hanging out in that space, which I really enjoyed, especially as I go there to do interviews, everybody was kind of in that same general area. But also you have a selection here where you have a number of different sections in terms of the competition, out of competition, the VR immersive worlds. You have some live performances and special film performance. So maybe you could give an outline of the 75 plus immersive experiences that you're going to be featuring here at the Venice Immersive 2022.

[00:10:57.844] Liz Rosenthal: Absolutely. So there's our main competition section, which consists of 30 projects, which is across all types of immersive formats. So we have projects that are standalone VR projects that are 360 plus six degrees of freedom. Then we have installation projects, which involve performances or multiplayer experiences. And then we also have VR chat world experiences that are in competition. We have five this year. two that are performance projects, and three that are extensive worlds that you explore with others. And then the best of section, which is our out of competition section, consists of 10 projects, which are projects that have already launched in real life venues or online on platforms that we feel are the best representation of immersive content over the years, since the last Venice edition in 2021. And then we have the Biennale College section, which Michelle has been involved as Head of Studies, where we have three projects that have been developed through the Biennale College and one, I believe, Michelle, that was financed through this year's edition. And then our final section, as you mentioned, is the World's Gallery. And we set up this section last year virtually that's a representation of the most exciting work that's happening on VRChat. So we selected 32 worlds to take part and it's going to be very exciting this year because we've curated these in world hops. So there will be eight different world hops that consist of sort of three to five worlds that you explore. Up to 10 people can take part in these world hubs that take part all throughout the day. And there's also two special events, which are going to be hybrid events. There's Soda, which is a South African art experience, and Center Johannesburg, which has an in real life place in the community in Jo'burg and also a virtual space. And we're also going to be beaming that into the island, into the garden, so people can be in the real world, in the party and in the virtual world. And another club world called Sanctum, which is our second special event. So that's kind of an overview of the programme.

[00:13:11.816] Michel Reilhac: I think that just to add to what Liz just described, the fact that we've made a very committed choice to not only curate the worlds that we think represent the best, the creativity that is happening in world building, particularly in VRChat, but in all social platforms today. But we are also putting together a whole system to really make people feel comfortable with something they're not familiar with yet. Even people who are familiar with the medium of VR do not necessarily go to these worlds. Each WorldHop will be equipped with three guides. Each spectator in Venice, who will be equipped with a headset, will have a physical host helping them to put on the headset, feel comfortable in entering VRChat. Once they are inside VRChat at the meeting point, the starting point for the WorldHop, there will be two people. There will be a guide who will have been trained by the maker of the world to make sure not to miss the main points of the world and tell the whole backstory. And there will be a wrangler who will also be in VRChat with the guide to just make sure no one gets lost in hopping through portals from one world to the next and no one gets left behind, or falling off a cliff or falling into the water and then respawning somewhere where they would feel lost. So we're making a huge effort in hiring these people to help the 10 visitors of each World Hop feel accompanied that they're being served and they're being helped. I think this is something that no one has ever done, and this is really something we're very, very excited about.

[00:14:59.887] Liz Rosenthal: And you mentioned being back on the island. This is a really important part of what we do as well, is bringing people into experiences they wouldn't normally try and finding a really good way that they try them. So the audience experience is super important to us. And we're particularly excited about the section. We've dedicated a whole hall to this. So one of the big, big wings is going to be our VR chat space. And as Michelle said, it's a huge operation. And we want it to be a really wonderful experience for people who would never, you know, would never think of going into VRChat or have gone into VRChat and have not understood, you know, they might have gone into a public space and not really understood how you find your way around or where's the best, how's the best way to engage with VRChat and find the best world. So it's a first and we've spent a long time thinking about how we run it.

[00:15:49.598] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's an interesting evolution over the past number of years, because I know Maria from Raindance had curated a number of VRChat worlds for Raindance, I think in like 2020. And then Venice in 2021 had a VRChat selection as well. In DocLab during the pandemic, there was a art project that was all about going into VRChat and taking guided tours. And then over the years, I know that you've done a little bit more of the WorldHop version of these worlds and actually built your own VRChat world that is like a portal. I think it's really powerful to either take a guided tour of these places and have things pointed out to you. Because I know Kevin Mack, he told me he's going to be giving guided tours of his VRChat world that's in competition. So just to be able to meet up with the creator and to hear either their story or to have someone who's like a guide who's helping to I'm like this docent that when you go into a museum and you get like a guided tour, it's nice to be able to get the story on top of what the world is, because I feel like there's an element of the spatial architecture that's happening in these worlds in VRChat that are very interesting, but then to add these other story elements, sometimes having a person there to kind of fill the gap in if the world itself is not telling the story, you know, sometimes there's text you can read, but it's a lot different than having somebody who's live in the moment, who's able to point things out to you or create this more spontaneous, serendipitous moment. And I feel like that happens naturally with WorldHops. And I think it's a nice evolution from what you've done in the past with WorldHops and then formalizing it into this more guided tour aspects. That's really exciting.

[00:17:17.330] Liz Rosenthal: Yeah, because in a way VRChat is all about the social. It's all about being with people and exploring and collaborating and visiting together. And in a way, it's like a new form of entertainment experience. I think it's a completely new art form or a new experiential form. And that's why we wanted to find a way in real life of bringing people into it. Because so far in festivals, you know, it's what we did the last two editions. And we were doing this virtually. But how do you bring people in who don't have the equipment for a star? or don't know how to find their way through these experiences. So it's a completely new form of engagement with VR entirely. It's not just about the project, the worlds by themselves, it's about how you experience them with people, because that's the joy of VRChat. And I know we spent several times during the pandemic meeting on Saturdays, and that was kind of like a form of entertainment in a way, like an urban exploration, where you're meeting up with friends.

[00:18:12.237] Michel Reilhac: But beyond the entertainment value, I also see that by helping people feel comfortable and reduce the friction of getting into these worlds, we contribute to making people learn the behavioral language of the metaverse. I think it's something that you just cannot understand. A lot of people who don't go into VR chat worlds ask a lot of questions about avatars, for instance. How does it feel to be represented by something you choose, but that is not you? The whole thing, if you just look at the etiquette, of how you behave with each other when you are represented by avatars in a social platform world is something that you learn about by practicing it and by being with other people. But the same way, how do you handle movement? How do you handle circulation? How do you handle talk when you are in those worlds? I believe that if the metaverse is going to materialize into a reality in the near future, we will all have to understand that there's a different code of behavior in it than we have in the real world, and that we need to feel comfortable with it. I think that's one of the outcomes of those world hops that you make people who are new to this way of being in a virtual world, you make them feel a little bit more, they understand more what it's about, and then they have a different view on the whole discussion around the metaverse.

[00:19:49.894] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think it's really exciting to see that expansion of curating of these art forms because a lot of times these worlds are there, a lot of these amazing pieces of work, but to have that curatorial lens of putting them into groups and to create a whole experience I think has done a lot in terms of inspiring or catalyzing people to create some of these different worlds. But I'd love to hear a little bit about the awards that you usually have and if you've expanded or because I know that there's always this challenge of saying, okay, this is a strict narrative, this is an interactive and then over time, those start to blur and blend and sometimes it's hard to really differentiate between these different categories. And I know, Liz, you've talked a lot about genres and the importance of genres and the emerging forms that are really the different structures. So I'd love to hear a little bit about if you expanded any of those awards, or I know that another thing about Venice is that you have it at the same level of the film, and so it's kind of at the same ceremony. which is a really unique thing within the XR industry to have the XR projects be recognized in the same ceremony, in the same level as a lot of the films, because, you know, Venice is a very prestigious film festival. I'd love to hear about the awards that you're giving out here this year at Venice Immersive 2022.

[00:21:00.567] Liz Rosenthal: That's right. And it's something from the beginning that was super important to us. Venice Immersive, the projects that are in selection are on the same level as cinema. They receive Lions. And so as an art form, they're not R&D, they're not some section that sits on the side. and they're not a market, they're part of the official programme and they're recognised in that way. So we have three awards again, but we have thought about this very carefully, because before we looked more at form. So we had an interactive prize and it was experiential.

[00:21:31.707] Michel Reilhac: Best story and best experience.

[00:21:34.489] Liz Rosenthal: And then a grand jury. Yeah. And so this time we've got more sort of like a best sort of prize, a best VR, best immersive experience, I should say. And then we have a grand jury prize. And then I'm trying to remember, Michelle, I've forgotten the third award.

[00:21:50.057] Michel Reilhac: It's like a first, second, third. We just renamed them. They have no genre. We have completely stepped away from categorizing between story and interactivity on the other side, because like you just said, it's all always mixed. So we do not have now any distinction between genres. A 360 documentary experience will be judged on the same level as a sophisticated game-based story.

[00:22:17.415] Liz Rosenthal: And so I can read them out, what the awards are now, I've just found them. So it's Venice Immersive Best Experience, that's the first prize, the Venice Immersive Grand Jury Prize, and then the Venice Immersive Special Jury Prize. So it's like a gold, silver, bronze. Okay.

[00:22:34.593] Kent Bye: Okay. That's great. Yeah. So yeah, I know this has been an ongoing conversation over the years, so it's nice to see it evolve to the point where there's all these different qualities of presence that it's sometimes hard to judge them or to even understand. And so the strength of the story, it sounds like in a lot of ways of like, how strong is the story that's being told, I think is probably a big emphasis that I see is consistent throughout, you know, at the end of the day, what story are you telling or what kind of innovations are you making within the forum? But I'd love with the time that we have left here to maybe go through the competition selection. I know there's 30 different pieces, and maybe just give a little bit of a sneak peek of some of these different experiences and maybe things that are striking about them. I know I'm going to have a chance to come out again to the festival, and I'll be there seeing all the stuff. And so hopefully I'll be able to release this as the festival is launching, and so people can get a sense of these worlds that are going to be made available. And yeah, so I'd love to hear a little bit more about this selection from this year.

[00:23:31.816] Liz Rosenthal: Wow. So as we mentioned before, in Venice, we always like to show excellence across all the different forms of immersive experience. So first, because we haven't been showing installations for three years, we've got some really amazing selection of projects that are installs. So they require some kind of physical set or haptics or actors. as part of the experience. So one of the biggest installations we have is Dazzle, that's a project from the UK that's using virtual reality performance, fashion and LED screens, so real-time virtual production techniques. So you can experience it in VR or outside of VR. and it involves mo-cap dancers. So it's a big celebratory dance piece. So we're very excited about that. And then another of our big installations is Rencontres, which is experienced by Mathias Schellebourg. So it's actually a multi-sensory journey that puts you into the shoes of the parfumier who worked with Coco Chanel to design the iconic Chanel No. 5.

[00:24:41.689] Michel Reilhac: And what's interesting about this piece is that the piece has been financed by Chanel. And it is a very interesting new example of how a brand can collaborate with an artist on a piece that is inspired by the history of the brand, but is not designed at all as a promotion for the brand. So it is quite an interesting case to analyze with that lens, aside from the fact that it's a very, very interesting and exciting experience to go through.

[00:25:12.253] Liz Rosenthal: And so I think we have, do we have about 10 or 11 installations? I've forgotten, Michel.

[00:25:18.183] Michel Reilhac: I think we have 10. I think we have 10.

[00:25:20.772] Liz Rosenthal: And then we have, you know, Dazzle is an example of a project that's sort of using cross-technology techniques with real-time virtual production. So it's been quite stunning with huge LED screens, which is part of the experience, where you have mocap dancers and obviously their movements are sort of translated onto the LED screens. And it's an incredible sort of black and white graphic. Then we have another project that is totally out of headset called Framerate. from a UK company Scanlab, who come from an architectural background, and they're experts in LiDAR scanning. And it's a beautiful project, it's a kind of environmental art project where they've captured different environments. Some of them are coastlines, some are forests, some are sort of man-made environments within nature, like quarries. And they've done stop frame LiDAR scanning. And it's this beautiful installation. It's going to be on several screens in a space. Because they're architects, it's going to look very beautiful the way they've laid it out, but a program. And you kind of absorb it. But it's screen-based. It's not headset-based. So those are just an idea of installations.

[00:26:27.028] Michel Reilhac: Yeah, there's another one called Okawari, which is a Japanese name for a piece actually done by a French artist and French company. It's a very interactive piece. But the one thing that makes that piece particular and special is that from the very conception of it, it's been an experiment in trying to see how can one optimize from a sustainability point of view, an eco-minded production. So from the concept, to the production, to the presentation in Venice, it's entirely analyzed with sustainability in mind, trying to optimize the carbon footprint, etc. And we will have on September third or second, sorry for not having the whole schedule in front of me, but we will have a case study presenting the results of this and how can you apply data monitoring the carbon footprint and the impact, the eco-impact of a VR production. So this is a very new thing as well.

[00:27:35.540] Liz Rosenthal: And then we have the five VR chat projects in competition, two that are performances, Gumball Dreams and Tightman. So Gumball Dreams, it's an international premiere because it was shown in South by Southwest. So that's Deirdre Lyons and Stephen Butchco, where they very interestingly used a world that pre-exists by Screaming Color, who's a wonderful world builder. And they've done this incredibly beautiful psychedelic spiritual journey with a kind of alien actor who is moving on to another reality. And it's a cross between a puzzle game, a massive theater, and just a brilliant journey. And then the other performance project that is a world premiere is Type Man by Cinema Leap, who are a Japanese company. It's a really beautiful magical realist. performance piece, using all the incredible animation skills and design skills our company have. They've previously shown two projects in Venice and were on the Biennale College. And that was their first VR project was developed for the Biennale VR College. And this is their first use of VRChat. So we're very excited about seeing these artists who haven't worked on social platforms before start to develop these multiplayer worlds. And then we've got a deep

[00:28:48.440] Michel Reilhac: I was just going to say, to pick up from what you were saying, Liz, that it's the same thing a little bit with Namuwankye, which is one of the three worlds in VRChat that are in competition, because Namuwankye is the first VRChat world built by Kevin Mack, that you mentioned before, Kent. who is a celebrated artist who does incredible digital representations of dream-like worlds. And this time he decided to try to do the same thing within a VR chat world. And we will see this alongside the two other VR chat worlds, Uncanny Alley and Treasure Heist. But the one thing that to us those three worlds have in common is that the three artists who built them are to us the equivalent of the very first genius filmmakers in the early 20th century when cinema was invented and later, you know, people like Méliès or like Eisenstein were celebrated as true pioneers and inventors of the form. We think that Kevin, Rick, and Finns, you know, the three authors of these three worlds, are truly the equivalent of these people. They're geniuses, they are inventing the form, and what they're doing today will be celebrated in a few years as the true new frontier and pioneering line of a new language within immersive, which is world building, which is an art form in itself.

[00:30:21.147] Kent Bye: I know that the architectural insight and the spatial design and trying to also incorporate different story elements. I know that Fins has a number of different pieces in this year that taking you on a whole immersive journey and just the architectural space design of the Metaverse crew and Uncanny Alley and just the world building that Kevin Mac is doing. I don't know if Kevin was inspired last year of going to the Venice Film Festival and going on the world hops.

[00:30:44.904] Liz Rosenthal: So Kevin came to every single event, even though he was in Pacific Time. He was up all night, I think, because he was so wowed by it. He came to all of our Meet the Creators sessions, every World Hop, anything that he could. And that was a big inspiration for him, Dodging the Ranky. And we know we've met him. Now he comes to so many, you know, the Metaverse crew meetups and we see him in VR chat the whole time. So absolutely the case. And when it comes to, you mentioned about Finns. So we're very excited about Finns New World because I think out of any of the world builders, you know, out of the worlds I've experienced, I think Finns is experimenting with narrative in really sophisticated ways that I haven't seen yet on that platform. And so Magic Heist, which was the world before this, this is called Treasure Heist, was a on-rails kind of ride. Once you gathered and you jump in the cauldron and then you're off on this incredible, it's like a roller coaster, Disney theme park world in VRChat. Treasure Heist's latest world is going to be a mixture between the narrative on rails and puzzle game. So we're really excited of seeing this sort of combination of the two. And it's the first time he's experimented with both forms together.

[00:31:55.438] Kent Bye: And I'm also excited to check out the Uncanny Alley, because I know the Metaverse crew had some worlds in last year's selection, and also the attention to detail to architectural spaces that they created. I know that's a collaboration with the M3 community, which I've been involved with, which is the Metaverse makers. So the Metaverse crew and the Metaverse makers, and so really focused on the open and tropical Metaverse. And so very curious to see their artistic take on the vision of what the Metaverse might be, or maybe you could speak a little bit about what that is.

[00:32:22.271] Michel Reilhac: And they're really experimenting with this if we talk about Metaverse, because this is one of the very first pieces that starts in VRChat, but continues on the internet through your computer in a website, but transporting your avatar through the different platforms. So this is one of the very rare new examples of interoperability that we're talking about so much for the advent of the full metaverse. And that's what Rick, Rick Trevick, who made this world, is playing with. He's experimenting with transporting the story and the characters and the viewer from one platform, VRChat, to the web, you know, without breaking the continuity of the world and of the story. So this is a very interesting experiment in that sense as well.

[00:33:08.419] Liz Rosenthal: And also the whole world and the journey you go on is a comment on the open metaverse. And it's super funny, it's really darkly funny. And like all Rick's worlds, the avatars are amazing, the environments are spectacular. And it's got a hilarious transport system through the portals that I don't want to give away, but it's just brilliant. Super comical, always, as Rick is. But it sort of points to all of those different sort of like fictional metaverse stories. There are loads of references all the way through.

[00:33:39.081] Kent Bye: Very cool. Yeah. Looking forward to checking out all of these and maybe we could talk about some of the other experiences as well. I know you have an escape room type of games, but also 360 videos. I don't know where you want to go next.

[00:33:50.317] Michel Reilhac: Well, we can mention the new work by Céline Tricard, who was the winner with the key of our Grand Prix three years ago. And she's coming back with a game that she has fully designed called Fight Back. And it is an empowering game for women to regain their right to assert themselves, including physically. And it's a metaphorical game where you travel through different encounters. And here again, we don't want to spoil it, but the game leads you through a very gamey kind of approach and method. And little by little, you discover that it is about much more than what the game entails. So it's the first time that Céline engages with truly game dynamics. Same thing for her producer from Paris. It will be very, very interesting to see the response to this new complex approach in which the game is not the end in itself of the experience, but a mean to access a different level of understanding.

[00:35:01.960] Liz Rosenthal: I'm also wanted to mention two other projects that come from game studios, VR game studios. So one is one of the most anticipated titles this year in VR is Peaky Blinders. That is a piece that obviously is in the story universe of Peaky Blinders that was on the BBC series. And so that's going to be the first, they're going to show a sort of festival version of that, because it's releasing later in the year. So that's kind of exciting, because it's a narrative puzzle game, but it's more narrative than I would say, puzzle. So it's really interesting seeing how these studios are experimenting with narrative. And the second one I wanted to mention is Mrs. Bentz. by Eloise Singer. So these projects have come out of the UK. So Eloise has quite a young studio, and she did a project called Pirate Queen that was at Raindance last year. And now it's been developed into a much bigger game. And this is her second game, Mrs. Bent. She's sharing the sort of first chapter of the game. And it's a story that I didn't know about, but Mrs. Bentz, the partner of Mercedes-Benz. Mr. Bentz, who obviously invented Mercedes-Benz and started the company, was incredibly instrumental in the financing, the strategy, and the design of the first car that went long distance. And it's that story. So we've got the first chapter. It's a really wonderfully designed game where you're in the studio building the first car. and it's her kind of voice and there's a kind of a reveal at the end, another sort of female empowerment story.

[00:36:34.510] Michel Reilhac: But there are more. We're seeing and celebrating how game and story are merging in many, many different ways because we have another game from Backlight Studio in Paris called Ascenders, which is very much based on a storyline. But the same way, Shores of Loki, which we are showing in our best of section, is also a puzzle game that develops and grows into a visual story methodology for the user experience. So we're seeing more and more of that happening in the field.

[00:37:07.412] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there's some other 360 videos, maybe we could talk about some of those.

[00:37:13.515] Liz Rosenthal: Yeah, we have some incredible 360 and it's so exciting to still see that this form is, you know, really developing in its own way. One of the standout pieces was a totally new discovery as a project from Taiwan called All That Remains, which is developed by a theatre company and a theatre director, I think he's called He has a non-Taiwanese name, Craig Quintero, I think that's his name. And it's a most beautiful artistic piece, which Michelle and I quite stunned when we saw it, we hadn't seen 360 being used in that way.

[00:37:46.387] Michel Reilhac: Yeah, but there are, I mean, in the same way, you know, if you look at the way 360 videos are made or how close they can be to filmmaking, we have another one coming from Australia called Sorella's Story, which tells the story of a tragic event that happened in Latvia at the end of World War Two, where hundreds of women and men were killed, assassinated on the beach in Latvia. And the film just does a retelling of this tragic event and is amazingly well done. And we love to see films like this. I say film because they are very close to the language of cinema, but they are done with an understanding of what 360 brings to the experience of being in those stories that cinema cannot bring you. We love to recognize and embrace those 360 films that are made by people who have experience in filmmaking and that are exploring the way of transporting their knowledge and their experience and their talent into the 360 dimension. But from Taiwan, we also have a piece that is really amazing and based also on historical events called The Man Who Couldn't Leave, that is also playing with a film approach to telling that story and filming it, but trying things, trying special effects, trying ways of playing with space in particular, which is impossible to do with flat film. So this is yet again an example of how an artist can bring their experience in filmmaking to the 360 dimension and yet continue to improvise and continue to explore and experiment without denying the potential of cinema, but seeing how it can be enriched and developed through 360 filmmaking.

[00:39:48.373] Liz Rosenthal: There are so many projects that we could point to, and these are the ones that have come to our minds as we're talking, but we were so excited about our selection period. It was such an absolute pleasure, because every day we watched such incredible experiences. We felt totally privileged with the projects that were submitted.

[00:40:07.688] Michel Reilhac: If we can mention two more, there's one called Xscape, which is also special because it uses pass-through video technology in VR, which means that you can see your real-life environment at the same time as it's a mixed media mixed reality kind of technology that will insert and install digital volumetric images inside your live landscape. And this is a game that you do, which is so fun and so quirky, but you do it as a mixed reality experience, which is quite new and using a regular Quest headset.

[00:40:47.948] Liz Rosenthal: And it's for two people, it's multiplayer.

[00:40:50.129] Michel Reilhac: Two at the same time.

[00:40:51.678] Liz Rosenthal: And so, and it's by Frida, so her man and his team from Argentina. So the characters are just brilliantly designed. And it's a real, well, it's nothing that I've seen them do before. It's a totally new departure. It's a super fun game.

[00:41:05.566] Michel Reilhac: And the last one I wanted to mention is Elele. It's our selected project from the College VR this year, and it's a Turkish and Dutch project. Elele means hands coming together. And what's interesting about this piece is that it starts like an invitation to choreograph with your own hands. Your hands become the performers to a piece that you can improvise. So it's very fun and elegant and it grows into something which I do not want to spoil again, but it grows into something completely different and enchanting. So this is also something we haven't seen in VR before that we look forward to.

[00:41:47.540] Kent Bye: And as I look through some of the other pieces, as I was looking through the selection, there seemed to be another genre, which is the animation genre, which looks like, you know, from the main square, looks like a form of maybe hand-drawn type of animation, but also bringing in that animation tradition into VR, I think is another big theme and genre that I see from a number of different pieces here.

[00:42:08.972] Michel Reilhac: Absolutely. When you compare From the Main Square with Red Tail, for instance, which is another animation from Taiwan, Taiwan remains a real hub for creativity in VR. Red Tail and From the Main Square are completely different styles of telling a story in animation. And the style and design of the animation in these two cases is completely, completely different. And it shows the incredible variety and creativity that happens in the field of animation in VR. Those two pieces, and they're not the only two, do represent some of those incredible innovations in animation in VR.

[00:42:49.611] Liz Rosenthal: And then you've got other animated projects like Reimagined Volume 1 Nyssa, which is using quill in a really sophisticated way. It's a whole series of fairy tales that's been retold from a female perspective, and this is the first episode. And it's quite beautiful what they've managed to achieve. So I was really stunned by that use of quill. And, you know, going back, then there's something like Lostration, which is in our best of section, which has this beautiful graphic novel, sort of illustrative animated approach, which is another beautiful project that I was really impressed by. And we were both super impressed by in terms of its both its storytelling techniques and its graphic style.

[00:43:33.090] Kent Bye: In some of the worlds, as I was going through the VRChat world gallery, photogrammetry, real capture of different places in Venice, but also there's a piece on Notre Dame, the one that's in competition, that's focusing on a location or a space, but kind of telling a story of the space. But I think that's another theme in terms of taking you into these other worlds and then giving you a little bit more content of that.

[00:43:53.786] Liz Rosenthal: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

[00:43:56.301] Michel Reilhac: We could go on and on and talk about every single piece, because by looking at it while we're speaking with you, I see how really special, different and innovative each single piece in our program is. It's really wonderful to watch it and to see how diverse It is, and it's going to be so exciting to offer the opportunity to show the audience how rich, how diverse, and how creative the field is right now, you know, with artists exploring and experimenting with the medium. It's completely exciting and fascinating.

[00:44:32.754] Liz Rosenthal: Yeah, and as we scroll through, because we're looking at things on the screen at the moment, basically listening to the podcast, I feel bad. There were so many projects that I'd like to mention that you're scrolling through. We need to have a podcast.

[00:44:44.903] Michel Reilhac: I wanted to mention Eurydice, which is a Dutch project, which is really different from anything else, because it's a slow descent into hell, being Orpheus and looking for Eurydice that has died and that we're going to try and find at the bottom of hell. And this descent into this very dark world becomes a form of meditation. You go through a maze, and you hear Eurydice singing in the distance and the experience is about nothing else but finding your way through this descending maze which is made of point cloud and it slowly creates a sort of spiritual meditation kind of way of feeling, of being, which I found very endearing and very unique. So there are those artists like Céline Desmond, the maker of Eurydice, who are looking at VR as a way to alter our state of being and to access other dimensions that can also be spiritual, which I find a very interesting direction for Immersive Media.

[00:45:58.010] Liz Rosenthal: Absolutely. And a project I'd like to mention is Stay Alive My Son, or the French title is Tu vis pas mon fils by Victoria Bouzis. It's an incredible, it's based on a real memoir from a man who escaped the Cambodian genocide. And it's a message really to his son who he lost, who was very young at the time. And it's such a powerful memory and journey backwards. And it's really extraordinarily beautifully, darkly designed. So I highly recommend that piece.

[00:46:32.003] Michel Reilhac: You mentioned, Kent, you mentioned in passing Éternel Notre-Dame, which is a French production which will have its international premiere in Venice and is currently on view at La Défense in Paris. And it is a reconstruction of the whole process of how Notre-Dame was built all the way to the fire that destroyed it and the perspective of rebuilding it. So it's both a scientific and a historical approach to this iconic building among the world treasures. And it's an experience that you do, it's all animation, but it is done with very, very serious and deep scientific research and care so that everything in it is truly a reference in terms of how it was built and how it will be rebuilt.

[00:47:23.178] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, we have seven more left. I don't know if you wanted to go through them or if you wanted to wrap up.

[00:47:28.041] Liz Rosenthal: Can I mention one more that I think is super charming is Rock Paper Scissors that's based on the game. And it's a beautiful, short and fantastically designed piece from a storytelling and UX perspective, because it shows the relationship between the mother and her daughter and how they make decisions through playing Rock Paper Scissors, which They're using hand tracking, and you basically play the game and the outcome of the mother or the daughter and negotiating with each other, you know, whether you do the washing up or something else, whether you're allowed out is done through the action. And it's just a super beautiful example of how a relationship

[00:48:06.755] Michel Reilhac: And I would say super inspiring, because for me, as father of three children, I saw this and I told Liz, oh, my God, I so wish I had seen this piece when my children were young, because I would have used this trick, this method of rock, paper, scissors to make them accept decisions that sometimes they rebelled against. So it's a very inspiring piece for anyone who deals with children. Highly recommended. Awesome.

[00:48:37.879] Kent Bye: I'll just mention the last six in competition. All unsaved progress will be lost. Kindred, Chenew, Bang, also Poets Room, Translation, Thamani is the Darkening, and then thank you for sharing your world, and then Mandala, A Brief Moment in Time. So those are the 30 pieces in competition. I didn't have time to unpack all of them, but I'm looking forward to being there on site to be able to check all these out, as well as the Best of selection and the College Biennale, and then the VRChat Worlds, the whole other. So I'm looking forward to being there and covering all these. And I guess last question to wrap things up, just curious what you think the ultimate potential of these forms of immersive media and immersive storytelling might be and what it might be able to enable.

[00:49:19.626] Michel Reilhac: I think there's so much talk and everything goes in waves of excitement that we're in a moment where all the talk about the metaverse is already reaching the point where it's becoming not the latest news. So people are looking for what's going to be the newest new. But I do see that all of the immersive media movement has gained so much momentum. There's so much potential in so many other fields, you know, aside from entertainment, that I am fully optimistic that this is going to become a major way of connecting with each other and sharing with each other, with its own dangers. But it is potentially a radical change of the paradigm with which we live. And with it, it comes with its own risks, but incredible potential. So I'm very, very excited about the next five years to see how this is going to materialize for the large public.

[00:50:18.698] Liz Rosenthal: Absolutely. And I think the idea of immersive, you know, Michelle, you were talking about how the form is becoming more ubiquitous in our lives. And I think that's what's going to drive it forward. But actually, in the kind of artistic and entertainment fields, I think it's really exciting, because we're starting to see a real acceleration of different technologies are enabling this, and I don't want to go into a technology discussion at all, but we're starting to see new opportunities for exhibition in huge types of venues that are being built that have these sort of LED screens or LED domes, and have interactive possibilities that are out of headset. And then we're seeing that there are launches of new devices now, like with Pico coming out with a new headset. And we're starting to see makers really think about cross formats. So creative ideas that are going to work in much more scalable environments, which is super important as well to sustain what's happening. So the ubiquity and the fact that things are really moving fast, incredibly exciting across all the kinds of formats that we're representing in Venice.

[00:51:24.417] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:51:29.680] Michel Reilhac: Come. Come to Venice. It's going to be a unique experience. I mean, we're seeing how massive this show is going to be. It's twice as big as anything we've done before, and I think it'll be a one-of-a-kind experience just being there.

[00:51:45.553] Liz Rosenthal: Absolutely. And because we actually have our market on the islands as well, as well as the exhibition, it's going to be an amazing get together for everyone who haven't seen each other for quite a few years. And so we're really excited about it. So it's happening from the 1st to the 10th of September. It's open to all types of passers. And this year, we've gone back to our 2019 idea. We have a special Venice immersive pass. So if you manage to make it to Venice, it's only 50 euros for a five-day pass or 80 euros for a full 10-day pass, which is an incredible value when you think about the 75 experiences you will be able to have on the island and all the things you'll be able to see and all the events that are happening there.

[00:52:28.450] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, I know because it's a competition, it brings together a lot of world premieres and a lot of really standout pieces throughout the cycle of the year of immersive storytelling. So I'm really looking forward to being there and seeing all the different innovations, the latest thoughts, and all the different ways that these creators are experimenting with the form of immersive storytelling and Looking forward to being there and experiencing all the pieces. And thanks for taking the time to give us a little bit of a sneak peek of some of the selection of the 75 pieces that you've selected. Obviously, we don't have time to go through every single one of them. But I'm glad that we were able to get a little bit of a taste of the themes and the genres and what the trends are that you're seeing moving forward. So thanks again for taking the time. And I guess I'll see you next time in Venice. Yes. Thank you. Bye. See you in Venice.

[00:53:13.894] Liz Rosenthal: Bye.

[00:53:15.042] Kent Bye: So that was Michelle Riak, as well as Liz Rosenthal. They're the co-creators of Venice Immersive, which is featuring 75 different immersive experiences this year. So we went through 24 out of the 30. We didn't have enough time to get through all of them. It's pretty ambitious ask to be able to talk about every single one of the competition. There's also another 10 projects that are of the best of immersive section. A lot of those are actually available as well. So you can check out those on the list and be able to see if they've already been distributed. And then the VRChat world gallery is something that I enjoyed seeing beforehand. I was able to go through all the different worlds and I'll give a couple of recommendations because there's a couple of creators that are really doing some really interesting world building. I'm going to be having an interview with Kevin Mack about Namuhanki. That's going to be in competition. That's definitely a world worth checking out and exploring around. I'll have an interview to talk about his process. That'll be airing probably later this week, once it starts to be made available to the wider public. Also, Dr. Morrow is an amazing, amazing creator. He's based out of Moscow, Russia. He's got this amazing vision of world-building, just creating these vast landscapes. I was actually part of the jury for the Raindance world-building competition. The previous world that actually won last year's Raindance was by Dr. Murrell called Olympia. Olympia Nights is being featured within Venice. But his latest world of the organism is unbelievable. It's absolutely mind-blowing about how vast this world is and just all the different surreal liminal spaces that he was able to create. I highly, highly recommend taking 45 minutes to an hour to go explore around. Go with a group as well because it's actually lots of different paths you can go down and you know just want to be able to make sure you don't miss anything, but also Help to make sense of this world and just to be in awe and wonder and also fence has been doing a lot of really interesting narrative type of experiences but that kind of take you on a ride and so you can see the magic heist as well as his other one which is the District Roboto, which he said it was a lighting study, and it's got some really spectacular lighting as you walk around and look at these different robots through this alleyway. There's a couple other lighting studies with Shadow Factory and the Dinosaur Bone Gallery Museum. In terms of looking at shadows and interacting with light, really quite compelling to see some of those interactive experiences of light. So I wanted to just give a shout-out for some of the other different types of open worlds, because there's Adrift, Olympia Nights, Organism, and then Magic Heist, which is a little bit of a space journey. There's a couple of spatial vignettes. Those are kind of like going in and doing a little brief study of some sort of spatial thing. The Night Church, the Rat King, Initium is a very brief environmental storytelling, and Fire Tornado. Also, Dream had a nice little journey that has some quotes from Alan Watts, who's talking about a lot of these Taoist and Buddhist perspectives. So, kind of fun to go through that. There's a couple of events that I think are gonna be widely available that you can check out. Syncdom and Soda World are gonna be having some club performances. And I'm not sure if these events that are a little bit more of the spatial music videos will also be available. That's the LLL Silent Dance Release Party by PK. I did a whole Twitter thread on that. It was really quite amazing. And Oxymore, I think a lot of the work from Vroom in terms of taking a DJ set and creating a whole spatial journey out of it, a lot of the stuff that they're doing is really pushing the edge of what's happening with music. Also, there's a lot of other music shader type of worlds that are in there as well. Everything from Cue, Friction, Particle Live Mixer, the Dice Dimension, VMVCC Type 01. All of these are these music videos and using VRChat as a medium to explore the intersection between these shaders and like music videos and also dance clubs. There's a number of different fractal worlds, which I found quite amazing. Lots of different ways of interacting with those fractals and pre-marching them, be able to step on the different geometry. So there's the disconnected video feedback world in Fractal Explorer, Fractal Explorer by 101, and then Fractal Love. And then a number of different photogrammetry worlds from the Cathedral, Cave Okinawa, Dubrovnik, Main Street, and Old Port. That's a really vast space. Venice Basilica, really quite amazing churches that were captured with photogrammetry. The Venice Canal, and then Zen Uraya Shrine connected with Japan on land. There's an escape room called the great invader escape, so that's a little bit of an overview of some of the different VR chat worlds I'll have the links down below Categorize into different groups if you like a specific type of genre the actual world hops have everything mixed together and so you could also look on the website and try to do the order of those world hops if you want to have the experience for it that they're giving and They're going to have those docents giving a whole journey. I'm actually going to be checking out one of them at the festival, what the onboarding and the experience was of doing it in a group as a world hop. So I'll be at Venice on-site checking out all these different experiences. Like I said, it's always a challenge to see all the different pieces of work and then I'll be there to chat with a lot of different creators as well. There's like 15 hours worth of immersive stories that are just within the competition alone, let alone the best of immersive and then all these VR chat worlds. It took me somewhere between four to five hours to get through all the different VR chat worlds that are there, so you can explore around the ones that are the open worlds, especially the ones by Dr. Morrow. You can spend quite a lot of time in there. Both Michelle and Liz were highlighting Kevin Mack's work that I'll be having an interview later. Fins with three different worlds with the Magic Heist, District Roboto, and a new Treasure Heist, which is going to be in the competition. It's going to be a combination of one of those dark ride mixed with different puzzle game mechanics. So it'll be curious to see how that turns out and then there's the other one which is the uncanny alley by Meta Rick So that's apparently going to be blinking off into other third-party sites I know that the m3 group with the web averse has been involved with interconnecting all these different Metaverse world so really curious to see that one on site as well And there's a couple of live performances with gumball dreams, which was showing at South by Southwest I have an interview with them And then another performance that's happening within VRChat called Type Man, which looks quite interesting. So highlighting all those different VRChat worlds, because as people are listening that you don't happen to be in Venice, you can check out all those different experiences. And like I said, check out the post to be able to get all the links to go directly. to these different worlds. You can copy the links and put them all into a URL opener and then open them up within VRChat. And there's a way to, if you're in Steam at least, open up the browser and then you can open up and launch a private instance and you can invite yourself. And then while you're still in VRChat, you could then click on your invite, then go into that world. And if you create it as a friends plus instance, then you can have your friends join in on you as well. So that's at least how I did the world hops. You can also search them and type them up and open up portals, but doing the invite yourself seemed to be a little bit better workflow for me. So if you look at the post, you'll be able to get those links and be able to kind of navigate yourself how to explore a lot of these different worlds that are being featured at the Venice immersive. Good chance to be able to see what's been happening within the realm of VRChat. And if you are in Venice, I look forward to seeing you here in a couple of days, and I will be on site and checking out all the experiences and doing interviews with different creators. And like I said, I'll be participating on a panel on Saturday around like 2.30 p.m. or so, talking about the art of reviewing immersive stories. So looking forward to having a discussion with other folks from either the immersive industry or film critics. There was a similar conversation that happened a couple of years ago, 2019, getting together, just talking about the practice of looking at this as an art form and trying to understand some critical framework. So I'll be sharing some ideas on that as well. I've given a number of talks like a keynote at StoryCon where I really do a deep dive into different frameworks of presence and then a keynote that I gave at PXR to get into the liveness of the live and framework for understanding why the live performative aspect is so compelling within the immersive media and these concepts of story living and different spectrums of interactive storytelling. So, yeah, just been thinking a lot about the art and science of experiential design and immersive storytelling. So very curious to see the latest innovations as I go to the Venice Immersive 2022. 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 could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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