GYMNASIA is a dark world of theater, VR, animation, and puppets.
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival is just around the corner and with it comes Tribeca Immersive Virtual Arcade, an entire exhibit dedicated to highlighting creators who explore how storytelling and technology can come together to deliver wondrous VR and AR experience.
One such experience is GYMNASIA, a groundbreaking cinematic VR experience developed as part of a collaboration between the EMMY® Award-winning immersive entertainment creators, Felix & Paul Studios, the National Film Board of Canada, and Oscar®-nominated Clyde Henry Productions.
GYMNASIA can best be described as an unsettling and wonderfully-bizarre dream-like experience that blends the world of theater, life-size puppets, animation, and cinematic VR into uncharted territories that stretch the art of immersive entertainment beyond further than ever before.
The experience begins the moment you enter the installation space. The room carries an eerie droning sound of children humming in a gymnasium that will disrupts your perception of the rooms size – it somehow hacks your brain into thinking the space is larger than it actually is.
The walls explode with life through animated projections of puppet children while a real, full-scale puppet teacher places musical sheets on an overhead projector. Scientists in lab coats then approach and escort you into those child-sized chairs that are found in every grade school cafeteria.
The room itself is an immersive theater experience that will muddle your own perception of reality.
The virtual part of this theater/VR mashup experience begins the moment you put on your VR headset. An out of tune piano sets the tone as you find yourself transported into the stillness of an abandoned school and enter a place where visions of a lost childhood await you. The immersive experience recalls the sights and sounds of a child’s world through echoes of games, school lessons, and choir recitals.
Altogether, GYMNASIA is a six-minute experience that brilliantly fuses 3D 360-degree video, stop motion, miniatures, and computer-generated graphics (CGI), and is the first stop motion VR experience to induce the elusive anxiety that occurs when the lines between “real” and “unreal” are blurred beyond belief.
This full-blown immersive exhibit was produced and installed by Phi Centre, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary arts and culture organization, and is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Niepodległa programme run by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
“Partnering to create new and innovative experiences is part of NFB’s DNA. Working with Clyde Henry and Felix & Paul Studios on this technical feat and genre pushing experience has been hard work but also a pure joy,” said Dana Dansereau, Producer for the NFB’s Digital Studio in an official press release. “Stop motion animation in VR is in its early days and it took the extreme talents of these three groups to pull off such a successful project. We are proud and excited to launch GYMNASIA at Tribeca Immersive 2019.”
GYMNASIA was produced by Stéphane Rituit (Felix & Paul Studios) and Dana Dansereau (NFB) and directed by the award-winning duo Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (Clyde Henry Productions). Montreal-based musician Patrick Watson composed music for the experience with immersive sound design and capture provided by Headspace Studio.
Paul Raphaël, co-founder and creative director of Felix & Paul Studios explained his excitement of GYMNASIA saying, “It was both fascinating and rewarding to see how much the medium has evolved in the short five years since our studio produced that inaugural VR piece.”
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 24 through May 4 in New York City. Tickets to GYMNASIA, playing in the Virtual Arcade, are on sale now through this link.
GYMNASIA will also be available for download on the Oculus Store beginning April 26.