The Line was just released on the Oculus Quest today, and it is a really sweet, immersive story that won the Best VR Immersive Experience for Interactive Content award at The Venice Film Festival 2019. The original version I saw in Venice used controllers, but the Quest release uses the hand tracking features in a really simple, but effective way.
The Line uses a tabletop diorama to tell the story of breaking out of routines, and it uses repetition of pushing buttons, pulling levers, and turning knobs to build up to some more complex interactions later. But these interactions serve to gate the flow of the story, rather than to express any agency that has any consequence to the story. It’s a simple, but effective way of engaging the viewer into the story, but also to recreate the types of embodied routines and cycles that are represented within the story.
Overall, it’s a really sweet story that shows the power of immersive storytelling, and I’m looking forward to seeing more content from the film festival circuit make it’s way onto the Quest distribution platforms.
I had a chance to talk to director Ricardo Laganaro at the Venice Film Festival back on August 29, 2019 to unpack their experiential design process, how they worked with dancers inspired them to use elevation as a form of narrative contrast, and how they’ve embedded aspects of Brazilian cultural heritage within this piece.
I highly recommend checking out “The Line” as it’s a short and sweet story, but also for the innovations of using hand tracking to help tell a story. It’s a great showcase piece to be able to evangelize to people the power of the virtual reality medium.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So one of the things that's happened within virtual reality is that a lot of the distribution platforms are really hyper focused on gaming. So even though there's this whole film festival circuit with lots of different pieces that are shown there, it's kind of rare to have some of those pieces get distributed on some of these different platforms. It does happen, but a lot of the people end up wanting or expecting some more interactive gaming type content. But I'm happy to see over the last couple of months to see some of these pieces that have been on the film festival circuit starting to show up, at least on the Oculus platform. So starting back on April 16th, they released the key both on the Rift as well as for the Quest that actually won at Tribeca in Venice. Then Queer Skins was at Tribeca a couple of years ago, came out on May 21st, as well as War Remains by Diane Carlin also came out on the 21st as well. And that was at Tribeca last year. So there's a piece that premiered at Venice that actually ended up winning the best VR immersive experience for interactive content, and that was called Alinea, or The Line. It just came out on the Quest today, on Thursday, May 28th, 2020. It's a really, really sweet, short story. Highly, highly recommend it. And I just recommend going to check it out. If you're into immersive stories, it's a very innovative in a lot of different ways. And I'll be breaking down a lot of the things that the team of Ori studios there in Brazil have been able to put into practice here with the line. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Ricardo happened on Thursday, August 29th, 2019 in Venice, Italy. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:01:52.131] Ricardo Laganaro: My name is Ricardo Langanaro, and I'm here in Venice showing Alinha, or The Line, which is the piece that we are presenting here.
[00:01:59.817] Kent Bye: Great. So maybe you could give me a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:02:05.922] Ricardo Laganaro: Okay. I began working with film production in Brazil. So I used to work in a production company called O2 Films that made films like City of God and good productions in Brazil. and there I began to work in the innovation department that did things that were not the flat screens for films or TV and then I did a content for a dome for a museum in Rio called Museum of Tomorrow that was the biggest venue that was built for the Olympics 2016 and it was a full dome piece like three quarters of a sphere with 80 people inside and then doing this content in 2013 I discovered VR as a previous tool So we could see what we were doing for the dome, because trying to understand how does it feel to be inside a dome, looking to a rectangle screen in front of you, it's really hard. So we tested the DK1, the first one. We said, oh, now we can be inside of the virtual dome with the same sense of scale. and test what we are doing, and the team can test what they are doing, and the curators of the museum can test, and everybody can speak the same language. And then we began to study the language of immersion narrative and try to understand the cuts and the fadings and how things could work to go from one scene to the other. And then like one or two years later, I went to South by Southwest and everybody was talking about VR already. I said, man, I'm working with this thing for a year. So I think I can try to do more stuff like that. So I began to do some 360 videos. And then in 2016, I was selected by Oculus to Oculus VR for Good, the first edition of the program. And then I did the film called Step to the Line. That was a VR doc inside maximum security prisons in the US, California. And then we were selected for Tribeca to the premiere there. And then after that, I just began to do VR content and XR content as well.
[00:04:01.399] Kent Bye: Yeah, so what year was it that you started doing the Dome work? 2013. Okay, okay, so the Oculus Rift DK1 was already out at that point, and so you happened to be working on what is essentially an equivalent of a spatial medium, but projected in a dome, and so then you'd already been working on projects, and then you sort of went from there into 360 video.
[00:04:20.986] Ricardo Laganaro: Yes, it was like the other way, so I began doing something that was not for Oculus, but then I used the goggles to understand what I was doing for the dome, and then I began to work in VR.
[00:04:33.293] Kent Bye: I see. Yeah, and we actually had a chance to chat at Tribeca a few years ago from Step to the Line. It was a very powerful piece, and I do plan on still airing that episode, especially after seeing this piece called Alinea, or The Line, that's showing here. So maybe you could tell me a bit about how you went from Step to the Line to then The Line, or A-Line.
[00:04:52.788] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, after Step to the Line, it was like my 13th cinematic piece in VR. So I said now I have... You said 13th? Yes, because I did a lot of commercials in Brazil. So I did the piece like it was on the top of the Christ, the Redeemer in Rio for 24 hours. So it made a time lapse of him looking into Rio for the whole day. So after that, I said now I have to study more interactive stuff. So I'm doing a lot of cinematic. But I realized that probably the path to do real VR or VR that would be tailored for this content that would be tailored for VR, it would be interactive stuff. And then I got out of this company and became partner in Arvoe, which is a studio in Brazil focused just in immersive content. And I needed to be with partners and people that were thinking about VR the whole time, not as just as a side job, right? And then we had a team, we have a team, with game designers, developers, interaction designers, visual artists, so a multidisciplinary team that can think about how to create something really new for VR. For the first year, I was more trying to help to build the company, but then I was also in Tribeca with a project called Objects in Mirror AR Closer Than They Appear. So I was XR Creative Director there. And in this project, I began to study spatial, how to tell stories in a spatial space, like spatial stories, right? How to make people move to follow your story. And then we realized that this could be a good opportunity to create a narrative piece, because, at least at that time in our opinion, most of the narrative pieces in 360, or even in 6DOF, were not exploiting a lot the space. So we made a proof of concept, the end of last year, and tested Quick Story with small and quick interactions, but that would make the person, the user, move to follow the story. And then we thought that this could work well. And then we began to write the script of the line.
[00:06:55.670] Kent Bye: And then where did Pixel Ripped come into play? Because I know when I saw you at GDC 2018, you were in a rubido with Pixel Ripped. And so what was your involvement with Pixel Ripped?
[00:07:04.833] Ricardo Laganaro: Pixel Ripped is made by Ana Ribeiro. She's our business partner. The first episode was totally created by her. So we just helped her to finish the project and launch it. Now we are making the second episode, which will be in 1995. And in this one, I'm also helping with the script and with the story, because I'm more on the narrative side of the company, because of my filming background. But in Pixar Rift, I'm just helping a little bit with the story, but it's totally Ana's work. But we change a lot, and since she has a gaming background and I have a cinematic background, we talk a lot to each other, try to understand the other areas and how to make the projects more complete, right? But then I began to do the line.
[00:07:47.168] Kent Bye: Well, I think that the line has a lot of spatial storytelling innovations that are, I guess, subtle in the way that they're combined together to create something that's new and different. I think what I would say, what I see, is that there's a certain amount of a routine, daily mundane routines. but those routines happening over a spatial context. So you are watching people doing their paper route, doing the different mundane tasks of driving around a town, but you get a sense of the place by how people are moving their bodies through that space. And so there's an element of how the story unfolds that has these people moving through a space in a very specific way. If you think about film, usually you're set into a context and you're just kind of telling the story. But this, you really have like an emotion the whole time through this whole space, which I think is something that's very unique to VR. And that because you're able to have like this tabletop approach, then you're able to kind of explore that spatial dimension of the place in space and bodies moving through space in a very specific way that I think was really quite interesting.
[00:08:53.120] Ricardo Laganaro: Cool, yeah. Nice to hear that. But the thing is that we were studying a lot like the language and the grammar of the body movement. So we made a lot of workshops with contemporary dancers to try to learn how you move, how we move, and how moving make you feel, bad or good. And then we were thinking about interactions more than just being a tool for establishing the feeling of presence, as metaphors for the narrative that we were building. So we had a narrative designer at the team together, and together with her we were rewriting the script and testing a lot to try to create interactions that would make the user feel the same thing that the characters were feeling. So this could be something that just would work in VR. and using not only the space but the user of the body as a tool to make the story go forward and make the user feel things in a different way because it's not just seeing, it's really making them move and if the character is in a low moment, the user will go to a low moment, like physically, and I think this gets another level and a lot of layers of the understanding of the piece.
[00:10:05.286] Kent Bye: Oh, that's interesting. Now that you say that, it kind of makes sense as you traverse through both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of this space, what you mean by that. So you're saying that as the character is going through a hard time, you go actually physically lower in the space, and then having a better time, you go higher. Yes.
[00:10:21.405] Ricardo Laganaro: When we were having these workshops in contemporary dance, we learned that they divide the movements in low, medium and high. And this is made by the height of your head. So if your head is on the floor, they say that it's a low movement. And if you're on your knees, it's a medium movement. And if you stand up, it's a high movement. And then we began to think about how to play with that. Doing the same movement in a low position is completely different of doing the same movement in a higher position. And then we said that we can use that as a narrative tool. So the same way we have to learn in movies like how does it feel to see a close-up or a wide shot. Now we have to learn how to use the body to create these emotions as narrative tool. So we explored that and we also We're trying to change... You said in the beginning of the question that we're making people get part of the routine as if they were a machine in the beginning. So the narrator knows everything, you know everything, the characters know everything. And sometimes in the middle of the experience, if you help the character change the way, everybody gets lost. And everybody has to learn together what they have to do to make the story go forward.
[00:11:31.295] Kent Bye: That's interesting. Yeah, and so maybe could talk about this opportunities to invite the audience member in to participate because on the surface It's sort of like a task that almost to be like you still tell the story without having it But like what do you feel like you get by the user? Engaging and feeling like they're participating in this story in some way
[00:11:54.461] Ricardo Laganaro: First of all, I think it's trying to understand a new way of storytelling, right? Because we are super used to have stories that people just tell you and you listen and you see stuff. or gaming, that you are the protagonist and you have to do everything. So this middle term, when it's a story in third person, that you have the characters, you are not them, but you can have some inputs and some agency in the story, I think it's something that is not still very explored, and we want to test to see if it works.
[00:12:26.338] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so you said you were working with dancers. So how did that come about, that you would even talk to dancers to get insights into narrative storytelling in VR?
[00:12:34.657] Ricardo Laganaro: Because we were thinking about the body a lot, like reading a lot about embodied narrative and all the, even architects that discuss how your body behaves in space. And he said, we know nothing about it. And like doing films for 15 years, I never thought about my body and the user's body. So we said nobody knows more about the body than dancers. So let's talk to them and we're going to research some kinds of dancers that make therapy with dancing and then we invite her to come to the company and then give the whole team a workshop. And it was really cool because in the beginning I said, oh, so maybe we can begin doing like a theoretical class and then we'll do some practical. He said, no, there's no theoretical thing. You have to move from the first time to understand what I'm talking. So we had to be like really open to that. And it was super funny to see all those geek guys that are always used to being in the computer. but super open and we had a lot of fun for like the whole day with her and it was I think really important because until now when we discuss about interactions we are always questioning each other like does this movement make sense? Is it too fast? Is it too slow? How those people will feel? And I think it's really important to do VR.
[00:13:50.416] Kent Bye: So you weren't going to get an academic lecture about embodiment. You had to actually be embodied. And so it was very participatory, it sounds like.
[00:13:57.879] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, totally like that. And she has a theoretical background, but she understands. And I think it's the same with VR, that you cannot talk about it. You have to make it to understand. Because if you just talk and talk and listen, you kind of have an idea of how is it, but you don't embody the knowledge. And you have to embody this knowledge to do it.
[00:14:19.799] Kent Bye: Yeah, when I talk to neuroscientists, there's a big emphasis on the motor cortex and how much of our brain is actually in motion and movement all the time. And so it's very difficult to separate our cognition from that motor cortex and that movement. So it's this embodied cognition. And so when we change the way that we move our body, we change the way that we think. So as you are having people go through a virtual reality experience and move their bodies in specific ways, you're actually also modulating the way that they think. So I feel like there's something there from the neuroscience perspective, but also with what you're talking about with dance and using these different things, I feel like it's part of this unconscious language that we have some sense of, but we, it's still the very nascent beginnings of where this is going to go of what's it mean to actually move your body to shape a certain narrative experience.
[00:15:07.443] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, and I think what I love the most about VR is that this is the first time that we are giving that to the user. So the user has to learn how to move to enjoy an intellectual experience. Because usually we have to separate. If you are thinking, you have to sit and not move. And if you are doing something with your body, you don't have to think. And I think VR is giving us this opportunity to combine both things and doing something that you're used to do seated, like as watching a movie, but moving. And this, I think, will make us reconnect the body with your mind in a good way, because most of the problems we have now is caused by this detachment between the body and the mind, and this feeling that we just have a body that is a vessel for our brains, and we just have a body, but we don't have a body, we are our bodies, right? And I think this is a good side effect of VR that nobody expected in the beginning. And we have to explore more in all areas, even storytelling.
[00:16:09.203] Kent Bye: Yeah, the fascinating for me doing the podcast is that I get to go to all these different places around the world. We're in Venice right now. And I get to travel to these locations and start to discern different aspects of a culture based upon how people move around, how close people stand next to each other. So it feels like there is these individual contexts that have been created around the world and that there's going to be potentially this fusion of trying to translate this very specific cultural insights into the language of VR and there's going to be like this big pollination of Being able to do this cultural heritage capturing and sharing of these different practices but just curious if you've thought about a bit of what is unique about Brazilian culture and what you think that Brazil and yourself coming from Brazil in that cultural context may have to contribute to virtual reality as a medium
[00:16:59.208] Ricardo Laganaro: I've been talking about it in Brazil a lot because in Brazil we have this underdog syndrome because we are not used to be part of the leaders of new industries and in VR I think it's the first opportunity we have to be on top of the industry as anyone else in the world and it's the first revolution that deals with communication and art and technology that is coming to everyone in the globe together. So we have to be part of this in the beginning to help to shape a little bit the standards and the language. And what we try to do with the line is a little bit with that. So we have some names in Portuguese, we have some Portuguese Brazilian music and Portuguese signs there. but not in a caricature way that you usually see Brazil in the jungle and you see birds or you see samba and stuff like that and say no let's tell a story of our city the same way we see a love story in New York now this story will be in Sao Paulo Brazil And we have a lot of elements in the design that are really particular to Brazil. But we use it in a subtle way, so people realize that it's different from what they are used to. But it's okay, it's not about that. It's just like a second layer or a third layer on the background. And I think it will be really beautiful if we see in VR. stories from all around the globe, and these different landscapes, these different textures and colors would shape the landscape of the whole industry. So this is what we are trying to do, not as a statement or a manifesto, but as a natural thing. We are from Brazil, we tell stories that happen in Brazil, and that's it.
[00:18:38.715] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's awesome. And what I noticed, there are different street signs now that you say that. There's probably lots of other cultural artifacts that people from Brazil would be able to have the experience and maybe get an extra layer of recognizing that there's a part of their culture that's being sent around the world in this way. But I saw the experience. It's not like whatever that name of that building. It's not really relevant to what the story is unfolding. But there's a deeper context that's being created in that you have the ability as a creator to be able to sprinkle in different elements of the culture and then for people from Brazil to be able to watch it, I'm sure it gives them this sense of having their own sense of identity be reflected in this way and amplified.
[00:19:15.705] Ricardo Laganaro: Perfect, yeah. This is what we were talking about. All the buildings are historic buildings. All the neighborhoods are real neighborhoods in Sao Paulo in the 40s. So people that know the city and know the country will recognize that. And it's important in Brazil. We'll have a Portuguese version of it, of course. seen a project that was in Venice and is going worldwide, created by Brazilians, and show in Brazil, and people can recognize that, I think it's important to stimulate the industry there, that we can do stuff there that can be abroad and can be worldwide, and also has this second layer of understanding for Brazilians.
[00:19:53.559] Kent Bye: So you actually modeled the city on actual Sao Paulo in the 40s?
[00:19:58.181] Ricardo Laganaro: Yes, yes. My grandfather was already born in Sao Paulo. And Sao Paulo is a really particular city in Brazil because it's the biggest one. But almost no one was born there. Everybody migrated to Sao Paulo. So for me, it's special because my grandfather was born there. My parents were born there. I was born there. So we had a lot of historical pictures of the city and even like the photo album that you see in the beginning, it's the same photo album that my father had when he was a kid. It's like the design. And all the other creators in the team got things from their families or stuff that could relate and make it really authentic and unique and real, in a sense. So this is something that we are not easy to make in a project in Brazil like put yourself in the piece So everybody in the team is a little bit of an author of the piece and can make it feel more genuine
[00:20:52.126] Kent Bye: That's really cool. And there's little aspects of the piece where you have people really feeling like it's like a small community, like this doesn't happen until this happens. And so you see how these different objects are related to each other in a way that not everybody is just kind of going on about their business and not paying attention to how they're related to the world. There seemed to be part of the story where each of these different characters that are moving throughout the space have these different relationships to each other, which I think is also interesting to think about. that difference between that small town feel, that feels like they're really connected to each other, versus everybody's off doing their own thing. And so it's got this sweet throwback to a type of community where people are actually connected to each other.
[00:21:33.531] Ricardo Laganaro: Yes, I think São Paulo is like that. It's like a really big city, but each area works as a smaller city inside the big city. But we try to reflect this feeling of being really far away from the one that you love and you have to cross the whole city to see the person you like, but at the same time being ashamed to tell her that you love her and having to deal with that. And you know that if you don't tell that this day, you have to wait the whole day to cross the city again and to have the courage to say it. and then something happens and you don't have the opportunity to do it anymore and you regret. So, trying to be... This is another thing, we try to tell a really universal story with things that people relate, but in a local context. So, it's more genuine from one side, but it's super universal on the other, so we hope that everybody in the world can relate to the characters, right?
[00:22:26.031] Kent Bye: So, what's your personal connection to this story, then?
[00:22:28.987] Ricardo Laganaro: I think, first of all, I was a shy guy when I was a kid, so talking to girls was really hard for me. And we always invented these excuses, like, if this thing happens, then I'll do that, and then the thing happens, and then you invent a little bit more detail. They said, no, no, but this didn't happen, so today's not the day. And also the thing of being stuck in routine, because this is another thing of the story. It's a love story, but it's more about getting out of the routine to do the things you love. And being a workaholic and working in a city like Sao Paulo that you are always thinking about working, working, working, sometimes you forget that you are stuck in a routine, like the characters in the scale model. And it's hard to change, right? To do something new or to do something that you want and you don't even know why you don't do because you are just used to do the same things. So I think this is more the part of the story that relates with me now.
[00:23:27.528] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the other things I really loved about this experience was how you started to reveal the full landscape of the place. You don't walk in and see the whole thing. You have spotlights that then, as you unfold, you get the opportunity to take in all of this new spatial information as you go through this space. And so there's almost like this revealing of a space. as an edit because it's there but it's invisible and you can't see it but you're kind of revealing it so that by the end I've almost like built up this whole spatial memory of this place and then at the very end you teleport me in and I see everything and I've already got this context of where things have happened relative to the story and then I feel like I had this connection to the entirety of the space relative to what had just happened with these characters, but that by being at the actual scale, I was able to kind of take it all in and just be in this state of awe and wonder. And I thought that was really effective the way that you built up different things that happen at the tabletop scale, but then switch scales at the end. So maybe you could talk a bit about that switching of scale and what you found of being able to give people this connection to the whole space, but to center them into one very specific space.
[00:24:37.630] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, to begin, like the thing of using the spotlights as an editing tool, I think in VR most of the editing comes in the space and how you make people get positioned in the place you want them to be. And the lighting, like in the theater, can guide people a lot. So we want people to be curious about the scale model, but just being able to look at what we want them to look at that time. And there is another moment that you go under the table, that is also a surprise. And then in the end, when you think that you know everything, and now you are happy, there is this last surprise that in VR works really well, playing with scale, right? And changing your scale inside the environment. And then this is like the grand finale and we thought that we question a lot and we do a lot of user testing and we question people if they wanted to go inside of the scale model and everybody wants to do that, right? So they said let's give this good surprise in the end and give people a little time to enjoy everything they saw from another perspective, which is also good for the moment that we are now. that everybody just see everything from one perspective and think that that's all. If you change the perspective like that, you can show that maybe you are smaller than you think, maybe the things are bigger than you thought in the beginning. So this is also a subtle layer that we'd like to put in the end to make people feel that subconsciously.
[00:26:07.762] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm curious what you think the unique characters of the small scale versus the big scale. So what does the small tabletop scale give you that you couldn't do from the first person at scale perspective?
[00:26:20.397] Ricardo Laganaro: Because we didn't want to use teleport or any other locomotion system that people that don't know VR are not use it. So if you want to show different spots and make people move in the area that we had that was 3x3, it was almost natural to think in a miniature. So we could explore different sceneries and make people feel that a day was passing, but just walking a few steps. So this was the only way we found to tell a bigger story, not using teleportation.
[00:26:54.081] Kent Bye: Yeah, you had me start off by sitting down, and then, you know, there's a moment where I walked through and I actually pulled a cord and I was sitting, and then there was some trigger where I was actually, like, you said it was at a scale where it was at my knee level. I didn't actually notice it at all, like, I didn't feel like I should be standing up or sitting down, so it was fine, but there was this experience that I had by starting on the floor that made it feel like I was a kid in sort of like a process of discovery. So maybe just talk a bit about the choice and how you have the audience both start on their knees and sit and then stand.
[00:27:28.542] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, the first thing that when we were talking about creating this experience, we said, We want to make people feel that they are playing in the room again as when we were kids and you lay on the floor or sit on the floor and put all your toys there and begin to play with them and then you grab a toy and go up and put it on the table. So this feeling of playing as a kid, we want to evoke that. And we thought that if we wanted people to move in different layers, in different heights, we should begin sitting on the floor and stimulate it quickly to stand up. So it would be part of the mechanic that people would understand, oh, this experience I can stand up, I can sit, I can move around. because this is something that we thought it could be and also being magical like going through a door and Turning on the light and seeing this maquette suddenly because in the beginning there is just a book and darkness So I think it's like that like playing like a kid in a magical way that will never be able to do in physical life
[00:28:32.623] Kent Bye: And I know there's been some discussion within the community of the need for critical dialogue and critical debate about different pieces. And that because it's so early, there's no rules, but at the same time, there's no critical theory to push up against. And there hasn't been necessarily like a culture of critique that's really been fully formed. And so here at Venice, I know that there's going to be a number of discussions that I'll be having with Laurie Anderson and with Liz, one of the co-programmers, and then Michel is going to be interviewing me and a couple other people talking about critique. But I'm just curious to hear your perspective as a creator, the need or desire or the benefit of having more of a discourse around creative work within VR.
[00:29:13.697] Ricardo Laganaro: It's really important because by now I still feel that we are just creating content for ourselves, for the community. So we need to have people that can translate it to more people, to the mainstream. And this experience tries to be really open for people that, for example, critique movies to begin to talk about VR. So I think we have to create these bridges so more people can understand. And because I think there is still a lot of prejudice about VR, and we in the community know the potential, but we don't have a lot of people that create things that talk to the mainstream, and we don't have people that talk to the mainstream as well. So I think now maybe it's our job that this potential is not just for us. We have to create a culture of audience, a bigger culture of audience, and have to distribute, have to talk about it. And I think in the other side, the last years in the festival, I think we've been experimenting a lot, and it's good to have this kind of experimentation. But we have to criticize it, to understand that if we're doing it, it makes sense for more people. because we have to create the industry. We've been talking a lot about VR for five years, seven years, and the investors are coming, and we have to make the market grow. So, of course, I love to do things that I want to explore for myself, but we have to have more people coming into VR.
[00:30:43.007] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the experiences I have is that if there's a piece that I watch that I don't like, I don't think it's good enough for me to just say, oh, I didn't like it, and then that's the end of it. It's like trying to find the language and describe why, but also in relation to what the artist was trying to do, and listening to what they were trying to do, and then see what my experience was, and to match their intention with my experience, and then to figure out How do you sort of make sense of how to even talk about all the things you can modulate within an immersive experience to be able to actually get to what the artistic intention is for what you're trying to do? Either express yourself or communicate or give people an embodied experience or get them to behave in a certain way. So I feel like there's lots of ways that all these mediums are coming together. and that there's like a mash-up of all the different affordances of each, and then figuring out how to talk about those, and then to describe, based upon what you're trying to achieve, how do you mash together all these different options.
[00:31:35.656] Ricardo Laganaro: Yeah, and I think we have still to invent and create some words to describe things we are doing, so it's really important to have people writing about VR and helping us to create this vocabulary about VR. Because it's even my experience, people ask me what is it and I don't have a word to tell what is it. So maybe you guys can help create this kind of categories that we can tell to people, oh, this is this, right?
[00:32:02.522] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that in films and in games there's certain genres and I feel like that there's certain genres that are emerging like I would classify this as sort of like a tabletop narrative and that it's exploring space in a certain way you have a romance and so that there's also a sort of routine which I think that you know there's certain aspects of like Routine that doesn't necessarily translate into a 2d frame very well But I feel like there's something unique about how we move our bodies through space Consistently over time that gives us that routine that you're able to start to maybe tap into the unique affordances of things like that like the routine of life that I think work particularly well in VR and that is opening up the palette of types of stories you can start to tell by exploring that as a conceit which I feel like is One of the new things that you have here, which is like that repetition, you have something like Groundhog's Day is a good example of like, you know, there's precedence in terms of like repeating cycles and whatnot, but there's certain aspects of the mundane aspects of some of that that just wouldn't necessarily translate very well into a film. I think works when you preserve the whole spatial context, you get a lot better sense of being able to project yourself into your own experiences of these routines that we've gone through in our lives.
[00:33:13.636] Ricardo Laganaro: One thing that is really tricky in this case because when we have interactions and we want to make people feel that they are stuck in this routine and it has to be kind of boring but not that much in a way that people would give up the experience so it's a really thing line that you have to walk on like it has to feel boring but people has to enjoy it at the same time and this is also something that we are learning as creators and the public is learning right as well we have to teach the public and establish this kind of pact that if you are feeling a little bit bored here is because we want and it's part of the story and it's not a problem but go ahead it's going to be worth in the end so These kind of things that are still being created are also like a challenge when you try to add these layers in stories like that, that people already know somehow, like it's not a really new story, but using the body and interacting with it, it's new and it's not that you are doing something wrong or you're doing something that is not working in the experience. It's supposed to be a little bit boring in this moment, right?
[00:34:24.637] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's interesting. It reminds me of the old, like, folktale, folklore and mythology where you'd be telling a story and then things happen in series of three. So, it happens the first time, the second time, and then the third time something different happens. And so, I feel like there's something where... by the time the second time comes up you're like oh yeah this feels familiar I can remember what happened the last time and there is a repetition there but then you're still like maybe there's a slight twist where there's something that's new that keeps your intrigue that it's not just completely boring if you were to do it 10 times I think by the time you got to like six or seven all right this is like way too much but like it feels like this magic number of three but once you get to the third time then you're able to really have a certain expectation that they have but then you're able to then pervert that expectation so you have this routine that you have in your body memory, but then you're able to then play with that as a contrast to go somewhere completely new.
[00:35:14.742] Ricardo Laganaro: Yes, and one thing that we learned in the workshops as well, Dance Contemporary Workshops, is that one way to rest from making a movement is not stopping or pausing, it's doing another movement. So this is something really clever because we can make people move all the time, not getting tired. if you just change the kind of movement they are doing. And we try to use that in that way that people would feel that they were repeating stuff, but somehow they are always doing something different. And this helps not being boring.
[00:35:49.508] Kent Bye: Sometimes you're pulling levers, sometimes you're turning knobs, sometimes you're kind of just plucking at things, so you have these different actions, but they're different interactions that you're doing. You're not doing the same interaction.
[00:35:57.856] Ricardo Laganaro: Yes, because sometimes when we see some pieces that are more storytelling-oriented and have a little bit of interactions, if the interaction is too long and the same movement all the time, it gets boring and you get really tired and get too out of the story. So we want to use interaction as a tool to create the feeling of presence, as I said. But firstly, we want people to get really connected to the characters and the story. So how do we make these interactions not being in front of the story is hard.
[00:36:31.454] Kent Bye: And so what type of experiences do you want to have in VR?
[00:36:35.945] Ricardo Laganaro: Wow. Now I'm really into the body thing, so the experience that can make me move and get moved at the same time are the ones that I'm looking for more, right? So I've watched a lot of 360 videos already, and I love the ones that are good. But I think now, even with Quest coming, we have to explore how people can move. And I want to do an experience, and I said, wow, I moved in a way that I never did before.
[00:37:06.796] Kent Bye: And for you, what are some of the either biggest open questions you're trying to answer or open problems you're trying to solve?
[00:37:14.779] Ricardo Laganaro: I think by now it's how to create experience in VR that people that never tried VR before will love and doesn't look as a tech demo. You know, because like for years when I was presenting people to VR, I put them to make toothbrush, because it's really easy to understand. And this is something really unique that you can just do in VR, like painting in the air. And it works really well. But there are people that are not like into this kind of things. They want just to have a good story. And I want to tell them, you would like a good story? I'll show a story that it's a good story, but just could be made in VR, you know.
[00:37:54.757] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality might be and what it might be able to enable?
[00:38:04.713] Ricardo Laganaro: I think when the headsets are better and easier to use, and everybody will have on their glasses probably, something like that, is having this reconnection between body and the mind, as I was talking in the middle. I think this is a unique opportunity to make people not look to their hands the whole day anymore, like in their mobiles or even screens, regular screens. So having the information around you all the time, distributed in a good way, and having this digital layer on top of the world, giving you new possibilities to explore the world in a good way. So as Jaron Lanier says, the magic of VR happens when you take off the goggles, not when you put on. So if XR, in all the senses, help us see the physical world in a better way, I think this is the ultimate goal, at least for me.
[00:38:59.793] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?
[00:39:04.756] Ricardo Laganaro: No, just let's keep doing good content. And I think it's our responsibility now to do things that people like. Because everybody knows the potential. Everybody knows that VR can be a big thing. But we have to talk to people that are still skeptical. And we have to make them really love VR.
[00:39:27.050] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. So thank you.
[00:39:30.253] Ricardo Laganaro: Thank you, Ken. Thanks for your work. It helps a lot the community. And we learn a lot about everything, and not only VR, but all the kinds of artists that you bring to the program by listening to it.
[00:39:42.206] Kent Bye: Awesome. Thank you. So that was Ricardo Lagunero of Avare in Brazil, and he is the director of The Line, which just came out on Thursday, May 28th, 2020 on Oculus Quest platform. So, I have a number of different takeaways about this interview, is that first of all, well, this is just a really sweet story, and I really love the way that it's using the diorama as a conceit to be able to see just a portion of this big massive tabletop world using a lot of lighting to create these edits and you're using your body to walk through the space and as you walk through the space you're doing a certain number of embodied routines that it's not the same routine you're doing these different interactions and when i first saw at venice it was using the controllers but with oculus quest there's actually a implementation of using the hand tracking controllers which i think is actually gives a really nice feeling of like that you're actually in there now in terms of agency now this is not an experience where your actions are actually changing anything you're basically pushing a button metaphorically to continue the story but there's different things that you're doing whether it's turning knobs or moving your hand around and each of them is enough variance that it does give a little bit of a contrast between those different movements but it's not super repetitive the story within itself it's kind of playing with this fairy tale structure where you start to do a lot of these different repetitions and you kind of know what to expect but i think that's a part of the point because at some point you are so attuned into just knowing what's going to happen that when they deviate from that and then something different happens then it creates this contrast that is a part of this building of that narrative tension. Super fascinating to hear that they collaborated with some dancers and that dancers were talking about like where your head was at, whether it was up high and the medium or low, and they were able to take some of those insights from dancing and be able to apply it to the narrative and so metaphorically looking at the baseline of most of the story happening in the middle that's just the tabletop world and then there's a part where it goes high up to the top of the mountain and then back down crashing into the lake that goes down underneath into the underworld and all sorts of other aspects of trying to escape the dark night of the soul and climb around and get out of that dungeon area that metaphorically is a very low point in the story for the main character. So I think it's very interesting to see how they're able to tie that elevation to the narrative aspects and try to build and release that narrative tension in that way as well. And I also thought it did a great job of as you were walking around this space you're able to get a sense of the overall space and then at the end when you get embodied into this space you just have a better sense of the relationship of what this world is, what it means, and what has happened in this world. So I thought that was really a nice touch as well to be able to actually end up in the piece as well. And I think they're really playing with new structures and formats of story. Would something like this where you kind of repeat things over and over like that, would that translate exactly into a 2D film? I'm not sure. You know, I think there's something powerful with actually being embodied into, you know, make you feel like you have this deeper connection to this place as well. And it's also got this vibe of that this is a small town and everybody kind of knows each other. And I think he's trying to document different aspects of what it was like for him to grow up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and that there's many different generations of his personal family that has grown up and was born and lived their entire lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And so drawing on his own archives of photos to be able to recreate different aspects of the culture within a piece like this. And I think that's really, really cool as well, because you essentially have this space that feels like it has a lot of character it has like a lot of vibrancy it feels real in the sense that it's coming out of an existing cultural context it's not just completely made up out of no context or any relationship to anything that's real so i appreciate that there's all sorts of aspects of the Brazilian culture and Sao Paulo itself and these 1940s style that was designed around. And I just like that. I like feeling like this time travel into these different places, but to have a little bit of that authenticity where, you know, I may not be able to appreciate all the little subtle cultural references, but people from Brazil will be able to get a lot more out of the different parts of the history that are embedded into these environmental designs. And it's also in two languages that just came out. It's in Portuguese as well as in English. And there's actually also accessibility option as well. So that in the main version, you're sitting down and you're standing up and you there's a part where you actually like on your knees to do stuff. And you know, that's not always necessarily accessible. And so they do have an option for sitting down. But if you are able to move around, I highly recommend that because I think it does actually change your experience of the story. Otherwise, it kind of just feels like you're cutting in between these different scenes and it doesn't for me have that same sense of having how all these different spaces are still in relationship to each other. I really got a sense of the space after like walking through it once again. And the hand tracking was very immersive as well. I was actually surprised to see how well that worked and to see Does that make me feel like I'm a part of it and more engaged? I think that does to a certain extent, even though my actions that I'm doing are pretty inconsequential and, you know, could just not have them to some extent and just have the story move forward. But it does feel like you're helping out the character in certain situations. And so I guess that's a nice feel. But it's still I'd say it's like very light level of interactivity because there's very little of your choices that are making any sort of narrative impact on the story itself. But overall, a really sweet story, and I'm really excited to see where they take this in the future. It's $4.99 on the Quest store. I expect that there's going to be some people that think that's too expensive for what you're getting. I think that's a fair price, and it takes a lot to be able to make these types of experiences, but I think people's expectations about what they're paying and what they're getting is influenced by what they see online and the internet on different things like Netflix and being able to pay these different subscription fees, as well as, you know, the App Store and other games and the mobile market. So, I think there's a little bit of calibration process, and I'm hoping that pieces like this will be able to find their audience of people that really enjoy the piece on its own merit, independent of how much it costs and, you know, whether or not they want it to be more like a game. I think in order for VR to really expand that, what Ricardo was saying is that you really need to create these different types of pieces that are going to speak to a larger audience. And even if you're not into this type of thing, I highly recommend getting it to be able to show other people because this is like a perfect short, sweet experience that gives people a real experience of what the power of these immersive stories might be to be able to take people to these different places. So just for that alone, check it out for yourself. But then it's a great piece to be able to show it to other people as well. So highly recommend it. And I'm looking forward to seeing more of these different pieces get out there on these distribution platforms. And I think it's just important to support these independent immersive creators. So That's all that 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, this is a supported podcast. And so 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 Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.