I interviewed Gaudi, L’Atelier Du Divin producers Agnes Garaudel and Vincent Guttmann at Venice Immersive 2023. See more context in the rough transcript below.
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
[00:00:05.452] SPEAKER_02: The Voices of VR Podcast. My name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast about immersive storytelling, experiential design, and the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com. So continuing on my series of looking at different experiences from Venice Immersive 2023, This is episode number 31 of 35, and the first of two of looking at the context of career and workplace. Today's episode is Gaudi, la tierre du Duvin, and I had a chance to talk to producers of the piece, Agnes Garidell and Vincent Gutmann. So this is a piece that is diving into the workplace of Gaudi, and it takes you on this journey through these different architectural innovations that Gaudi had. But you're in his laitière, which is his workplace, which was destroyed. And so they reconstructed this in virtual reality and gave you a sense of what his process of creating some of these different architectural innovations might have been like. And it's just an opportunity to take a tour through Gaudi's work. It's a six person social VR experience. And so you're actually watching it with other people as you're going through this experience. And so yeah, it's a location based experience that is actually out and about and actually sold out for its whole entire year, quite popular. And yeah, just a great opportunity to be able to catch it there at Venice immersive. So it's looking at the contextual domain of the workplace, we're looking at the workplace of Gaudi, his workshop, and it's also diving into the context of architecture. And he's also designed the Sagrada Familia, this epic church that is actually still in the process of being built. But overall, the primary center of gravity of presence in this piece is around environmental presence as you go into these workshops and you go into the workplace of Gaudi and get to see his different architectural innovations, either in these small models, or sometimes they tear down the walls and show you the big epic expanse of some of these different architectural innovations from Gaudi. And then the secondary aspect of presence is mental and social presence. The mental aspect of it's very pedagogical. You're learning a lot about the history of Gaudi and his different projects and very educational feel to it. But it's also got this social dimension as you watch it with other people. Although, as was pointed out in the critics round table that I have at the episode number 1305, Paula Weiss was saying that, you know, there's not really a lot of opportunity to speak to other people because there's a voiceover that's happening pretty much the entire time. And so, There's not really much opportunity to have any meaningful interactions with other people other than to be co-present with them as you go through the experience. And it's more of a throughput thing rather than actually kind of leveraging different aspects of the social presence. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Agnes and Vincent happened on Thursday, August 31st, 2023 at Venice Immersive in Venice, Italy. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:03:00.978] Kent Bye: My name is Agnès Garaudel. I'm head of GD1 Experience and the producer of immersive experiences, both VR as video mapping experiences.
[00:03:14.782] Agnes Garaudel: And I am Vincent Gutmann, head of Small Creative, which is a producer and studio. So we made immersive experience and totally agnostic in terms of technology, VR, VR, video mapping also.
[00:03:29.302] SPEAKER_02: Maybe you could each give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into working with Immersive Media.
[00:03:35.384] Kent Bye: Okay, at the beginning Gédéon Media Group is a documentary production company and we are specialists in storytelling for television and then in 2019 we decided to start in the immersive content. We began with an immersive exhibition that was held in the Grand Palais in Paris, built with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. We had 200,000 visitors in four months and that was the start of the company on this immersive area.
[00:04:15.770] Agnes Garaudel: And on my side, we started small like eight years ago. It's a branch of MacGuff. MacGuffLine is a VFX company in France that has like 36 years old now. They made a lot of content for Netflix, things like that. And we start as a studio for the beginning, so we build the content such as Ayahuasca, Cosmic Journey, or Seven Lives, or things like that. And then, like four years ago, Voyez la Coeur, my partners, came and we created the production company, Small Creative. So we became producers and we start from now four years ago to start our own project and to start developing Things such as new contents and the one that we are doing together Gaudi Which is a part of a next collection that will use the same dispositive Yeah, maybe could give a bit more context for how this specific project on Gaudi came about
[00:05:14.628] Kent Bye: In fact, Gédéon Programmes, the documentary division of Gédéon Mediacorps, was producing a documentary on Sagrada Familia. And for the necessity of the documentary, we had to recreate the atelier of Gaudi. So we work on a scientific way to recreate with 20 left pictures that we find about how this atelier was. We recreate the atelier in 3D for the documentary. And from that, we decided that it was interesting to create a new experience than in VR and so we came to Vincent and a small studio to work together on this.
[00:05:53.382] Agnes Garaudel: And at this time, we were developing this format, which is a format with six people together in less than 50 meters square. So it's a collective VR experience, because we really want the people to get in a place, like a cultural place, and also to get together, not in a solo experience. So we were developing this, and we thought that for Gaudi, it was very perfect. It matched the things. So we decided to make a co-production with Gideon. and both together with all our specificities. I mean, they are experts in documentaries and narration, and we are more experts, like a studio, in technical dispositive and artistic direction.
[00:06:37.596] SPEAKER_02: Yeah, I feel like that there's a natural translation for architecture and architecture visualization and the history of architecture. I know that there's been a number of different pieces that I've seen over the last couple of years, including like a history of Notre Dame with Eternal Notre Dame and other pieces by Lucid Realities that has produced a number of different pieces that look at architectural history. And this piece is with Gaudi and a number of his different pieces of architecture, but also his studio and his process. And so, yeah, I'd love to hear the process of trying to translate something that's already really amazing architecture, but to put it in a way that uses the medium of VR to tell the story and the history of Gaudi and his process and some of his architectural innovations.
[00:07:24.213] Agnes Garaudel: I think one thing is that when you go to an exhibition for Gaudi, you always see what he has done. And our point of view here is to see not what he has done, but how he was working. And nobody knows Gaudi. He was a crazy man, totally crazy. and totally insane alone in his workshop. The workshop just burnt after his death, so we had nothing left. Gideon works really on a recreate the workshop. And also the point of view is to say, okay, how he was working and who was this guy? Nobody knows. Everybody knows the Sagrada and everybody has seen it on pictures and things like that. So this is a real point of view, different that you can have from an exhibition or a documentary, is to see and to meet the guy.
[00:08:09.804] Kent Bye: And each time people try the experience, they say at the end, OK, I'd like to see another time Sagrada Familia. So, I mean, it's a complimentary. It's something that brings you to see the monuments that makes them rediscovered.
[00:08:25.895] SPEAKER_02: I had a chance to see the Sagrada Familia when I was visiting Barcelona back in 2001. It's just a really amazing experience just to be able to go inside of it. I think this experience was able to both show me the process of how it was built, but also to give me that feeling of being inside of the Sagrada Familia again. that sense of awe and wonder that I got from looking at the spectacle of these kind of tree-like columns. But to see them back in their origin in the shop and to see that the directors had been able to move the space of the workshop around and to have things pop up or to push down the walls and see something on the far field, to see the majesty and the scale of some of these different pieces of architecture. So yeah, I'd love to hear any reflections on trying to take something that maybe you could do a 2D video of it, but to really use the affordances of VR, but to also add the spatial dimension of the story in particular of how you want to move people through the space and not just have them stand in one spot and see it, but to encourage them to kind of move around the space.
[00:09:31.864] Agnes Garaudel: Yeah, it's very important for us, for the people to discover it because, in fact, the workshop was really small. It was three rooms only of 40 meters square. So it was really quite small to do such an amazing cathedral, you know. And it was something like, OK, we can put the guys inside, the public inside, and they can see how he was working, how he was thinking everything, such a big thing. in a small room. This is something that we really want to do. And also, it's very important for us that people can share it and that can move inside. And it's not about just showing the Sagrada, and it's more about showing something that does not exist right now.
[00:10:13.690] Kent Bye: And there is poetry. For example, when you see the forest and how it inspired Gaudi for building the Sagrada Familia, you enter his dream. So we try to communicate that.
[00:10:25.996] SPEAKER_02: And maybe you could elaborate on the social aspect that you're trying to cultivate here, being with six different people. What type of things would you like to see as people go through the experience? What's it mean to have multiple people in the experience also witnessing the events unfolding?
[00:10:41.470] Agnes Garaudel: Well, it's very important for us and this is the big piece of interactivity. Interactivity for us is not just pushing a button or something like that. It can be done also by communication. So this is why you don't have headphones and this is why people can talk to each other. And this is something very important because this piece is for museum or for cultural place. So when you go to a cultural place, you go with your kids or with your friends. So the number of six is because it's a group of friends or a family. It's based on escape game model. So he has his own business model now and we know how it works. And if you are with your family, then you want to spend the time with your kids and to show your kids how it was working or things like that. So here, in this piece, you can go, you see each other, you recognize your son or your daughter, and you can say, oh, look at this. Oh, you can see this. It's amazing. And this communication is very important for us.
[00:11:39.789] Kent Bye: You are not isolated. You are not alone. It's a group experience.
[00:11:45.714] SPEAKER_02: Great. And so what's next?
[00:11:48.332] Kent Bye: Next piece will be on Versailles with the 14th that will bring you rediscovered three special spaces that imagine, created and that has disappeared now.
[00:12:00.553] Agnes Garaudel: The idea really is now that we have this format and we have that kind of narration, we want to make a collection, a real collection on patrimony. And it will be on emblematic places that has always a part that was destroyed or that disappeared during the years. So we want to rebuild this and to make the people, they would be able to visit it. And this is because if we're doing this, then if we're doing something about Versailles like this, we will be able to show it to Versailles because you are going to see the castle, but you will be able to see something that does not exist anymore. So it's not cannibalizing the way you are going to the castle. It's a bonus plus.
[00:12:46.332] SPEAKER_02: And so do you have locations for where this piece on Gaudi is going to potentially exhibit, or is that part of what you're doing here at Venice, is to secure other locations for this to be shown?
[00:12:57.755] Kent Bye: It's already on tour in Japan for one year. We started in last June at the end of a big exhibition regarding Gaudi, and we plan a destination in China, in Korea, in the next month, and in France.
[00:13:14.155] Agnes Garaudel: We are looking for places and venues in Spain because it should be there. We don't still have places in Spain so we are looking for this and the thing is that the format is really simple. You can install it in one hour and you can fly. We came with two people like this, just us. two people, three suitcases, and we took a plane like this with like normal suitcase, you know? It's not like huge things. So it's really easy to take everything and to travel it and to go to United States or anywhere. So we are looking for many places, many venues, because it's easy to install.
[00:13:53.672] SPEAKER_02: How has the exhibition of it gone so far in Japan and what are some of the metrics that you try to look at to see whether it's working or not?
[00:14:01.726] Agnes Garaudel: Well, apparently, as we know, it's fully booked. So it's great. It's working great.
[00:14:08.251] Kent Bye: It's working well. And I want to say that our partner in Japan is NHK, National Television. It's an old partner of Shidon Program for the documentary. And so they decided to come on this VR project. And we are proud that it can be during an entire year.
[00:14:27.187] SPEAKER_02: So booked out for an entire year. That sounds like a pretty hot ticket then.
[00:14:30.653] Agnes Garaudel: Yeah, well, I hope it will stay like this, you know, but they open, you know, only one setup, but they have two setups. So they are managing these things that if there are too many people, then they will open a second setup. So the number of people you can have every 20 minutes is double, and you can multiply the setup like this. For them, it's the first time in VR for NHK. It was a huge work from them. It was something very new. They need to make a lot of work on this. So now they are going smoothly and securely, step by step, on those exhibitions and working harder and harder.
[00:15:12.688] SPEAKER_02: Great. And finally, what do you each think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling and what it might be able to enable?
[00:15:22.273] Kent Bye: We think there is a huge potential, educational, for the general public, and we think it's really a new way of discovering stories. So I hope it will be successful in our next developments.
[00:15:38.662] Agnes Garaudel: And also we think that VR maybe is a technology but it needs to be mixed with real thing, real exhibition and maybe AR and maybe video mappings. We think that it should not live just alone like this. It's really important to mix everything and for cultural places to keep their exhibition and the way they are doing it right now but just they can augment it with new content like this such as AR, VR and video mapping.
[00:16:07.994] SPEAKER_02: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader Immersive community?
[00:16:13.336] Kent Bye: Oh, please join us. Develop many nice projects so that VR Immersive project will really exist in the next year.
[00:16:23.980] Agnes Garaudel: And maybe just thank you to Venice so we can be there because it's a huge place and there are many, many contents here and it's a really good place to show what we are doing.
[00:16:35.005] SPEAKER_02: Yeah, I really enjoyed the piece and I thought it was a great use of the medium of VR and really transportive in the end and yeah, excited to see where it all goes in the future. So thanks again for joining me to help break it all down. So thank you.
[00:16:45.738] Kent Bye: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:16:48.704] SPEAKER_02: Thanks for listening to this interview from Fitness Immersive 2023. You can go check out the Critics Roundtable in episode 1305 to get more breakdown in each of these different experiences. And I hope to be posting more information on my Patreon at some point. There's a lot to digest here. I'm going to be giving some presentations here over the next couple of months and tune into my Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR, since there's certainly a lot of digest about the structures and patterns of immersive storytelling, some of the different emerging grammar that we're starting to develop, as well as the underlying patterns of experiential design. So that's all I have for today, and thanks for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And again, if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.