Today I went to Storyscapes at the Tribeca Film Festival. Storyscapes is a collection of video installations and VR shorts. I was particularly interested in seeing the VR shorts as this is the year that several companies are coming out with VR headsets. I had heard that one issue VR may have is that it can make some people nauseous, and they had me sign a waiver before I saw my first VR film. Luckily, though, this wasn’t an issue for me at all. The films I saw were fairly sedate, so it might be more of an issue with some VR video games where there is more movement. The two VR shorts I saw were Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness and The Ark.
Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness
This short VR film, which ran about 20 to 30 minutes, was about the experience of John Hull, a man who lost his sight. He made an audio diary of his experience of becoming blind. Portions of this audio diary made up the narration of the short. The visuals were light impressions of the sounds that became so important with his loss of sight (see the trailer below). I especially liked his description of nice weather. Because he was focused on sound instead of sight, his ideal weather was not a calm sunny day but rather a day with a lot of wind or rain because of the interesting sounds. For him “wind takes the place of sun” as far as beauty. The film was very well done and made great use of both VR and sound. There is also a feature film, and I look forward to seeing that at some point.
The venue at Tribeca was not ideal, though, as some of the other installations were a bit loud. I could unfortunately hear some of them even while I was watching Notes on Blindness. With such an emphasis on audio in Notes, I would have preferred only to hear that film and nothing else.
Here is the trailer:
The Ark was a very short film, only about 8 minutes, about northern white rhinoceros, which are extinct in the wild with only 3 remaining in captivity. It is an interesting topic, and it was fun being able to turn and see a 360 view. However, 8 minutes was just too short. It seemed more like a novelty of VR rather than a fully thought-out short film. Hopefully, future films can be a bit longer.