One of the most emotionally-moving VR experiences that I’ve had in VR was bearing witness to Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter share his experiences at Majdanek Concentration Camp in The Last Goodbye. Gutter not provides a guided tour, but he is able to achieve a level emotional catharsis through the process of sharing his story that his virtual presence within the experience amplified my own sense of emotional and social presence, which is what helped to make it such a profoundly moving VR experience. The Last Goodbye uses a unique blend of photogrammetry and billboarded stereo video that helped to transport me into a room-scale experience of multiple key locations at the Majdanek Camp as Gutter shared his memories of being there as an 11-year old child.
The Last Goodbye premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it was an epic collaboration catalyzed by co-creators Gabo Arora and Ari Palitz and included HERE BE DRAGONS, MPC VR, and OTOY on the technical production side as well as the USC Shoah Foundation to oversee the process of capturing testimony about the Holocaust. Arora is the founder and creative director of LightShed, and is now an advisor and former founder of the UN’s VR initiatives where was able to gain access to the Syrian refugees featured in his famous empathy piece Clouds Over Sidra. In this interview, Arora shares his collaborative process, pushing the boundaries of volumetric storytelling by blending photogrammetry-based, room-scale VR with live-action, empathy-based storytelling, as well as how he had to guide Gutter to achieve the depth of emotional presence that makes the piece so powerful.
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