The Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival kicked off this weekend in Portland, Oregon to a packed house. Artists, filmmakers and VR enthusiasts shuffled into a warehouse in the Northwest district to spend the next several hours talking with filmmakers and watching many of their featured films.
I had the chance to attend the festival, put on by VR agency Kaleidoscope and immersive video platform Vrideo. The festival highlights independent artists who have created noteworthy VR films ranging from five to fifteen minutes each.
I’m a big tech geek, but this was my first real VR experience. I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to strap on a headset and experience first hand what a VR film is. So, to be in a place where I could not only try it out, but try it out several times and view several films, it was a dream come true.
The event began with four filmmakers who spoke about their experiences in making their independent VR films. The lineup included Tyler Hurd, the artist behind BUTTS, the film accredited as being the first animation film for VR.
Hurd originally made his film for normal cinema. He didn’t know he would be turning into VR, yet alone be creating the first VR animation film.
“My friends approached me about making a VR version, and I thought it was a stupid idea,” Hurd said. “But they convinced me and within two weeks we had this VR version. It didn’t work straight off the bat and it took a lot of polishing.”
Hurd talked about the creative decisions that had to be made in taking the film to VR. He had to decide on scale and whether the characters would be giant or tiny or normal sized. He ultimately went with table top size when his VR friends said that would be most exciting.
He also ran into trouble with leading the eye in VR. He incorporated new scenes in the VR version where the characters rocket up in the sky during a scene where the viewer needs to look up at the moon. Hurd also used a spotlight in one scene to help direct the eye to where he wanted.
His tips for filmmakers were to create everything in one file, iterate rapidly and write tools to help with audio.
Following the talks, the room was open for attendees to line up and experience as many of the VR films as they wanted. The films were broken up into different categories including experimental, animation, documentary and live-action. Each category had two to five films to choose from.
Attendees chose the film they wanted, grabbed a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift headset, sat in their seat and hit play.
In the hours I spent at the festival, I floated through Oregon like a balloon, went on a driving tour of a Chrysler factory, experienced what the first few minutes after death might feel like and laughed during the “ass-feti” scene in BUTTS.
The film Colosse, a story about colossal proportions and adventures in immersive and innovative virtual storytelling, got a lot of attention and won the Audience Choice Award.
— Kaleidoscope VR (@KaleidoVR) August 24, 2015
Memoirs of a VRgin
The festival gives you the chance to feel and experience so many different places and emotions. It also gives you the ability to see the range that VR is being used for, whether it’s advertising cars, encouraging people to get out and play sports or showing viewers first hand the aftermath of the earthquakes in Nepal.
The experience of getting to see so many different VR experiences in one place is amazing. If you find yourself in one of the next nine cities where the festival is headed, make sure to not miss it.
The show hits the road this week with stops coming up soon in Seattle and Vancouver. Over the next few months they will be in a total of 10 U.S. and Canadian cities. If you’re nearby or looking for a road trip, make sure to stop in. You can get tickets here.
Festival Locations and Dates
SEATTLE – August 26
VANCOUVER – August 29
SAN FRANCISCO – September 15
LOS ANGELES – September 23
DENVER – September 26
MONTREAL – October 1
TORONTO – October 4
NEW YORK – October 6
AUSTIN – October 14