Talking VR at Cape Town International Animation Festival

Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) is the only festival dedicated to animation on the African continent.

The conference hosts eight international speakers and forty eight local speakers over a period of three days. CTIAF’s Artist Alley exhibits work from around the world and is free, as well as the workshops held on stop motion and animation.

When Dianne Makings, festival director of CTIAF, asked us to be a part of the VR component this year, we jumped at the chance! Makings gave us a spot in the Artist Alley to host the first free VR Cinema in South Africa. Gerrit Kruger and Colin Payne from Sozo Labs sponsored all the headsets and hardware required to run SA’s first free VR Cinema and then it was down to getting hold of great work to showcase what VR can really be. As well as this, Makings asked me to moderate the panel on VR, which I was honoured to do!

For the gamers of us, Sozo Labs showcased their Airship and Rollercoaster, and Gentleman Hands sponsored their Chocolate. Controlling an airship and rollercoaster was great fun for all of us and Chocolate was a dance-off hit. A 3-4 minute reactive linear VR music video experience for the song by Giraffage that sets you as a robot in a cat-centric world of colorful chrome in which your hands interact with.

All of our 360’ videos featured illustration and we are incredibly fortunate to have had all of the experiences sponsored by; Contrast VR, Valentina Paggiarin, MK2 Films and David Beier.

ContrastVR created by Aljazeera’s VR team led by Zahara Rasool is about the oil companies in Nigeria and follows Lessi Phillips who was only 16 years old in 2008 when a Shell Oil pipeline burst pouring an un-assessed amount of oil into the mangrove swamps near her village for 77 days. The pipeline ran under the creeks of the Niger Delta in her small town of Bodo City, Nigeria and the leaking oil devastated the diverse ecosystem, destroying the vibrant local fisheries and farms. Nearly ten years later, Lessi has graduated from university and returns to Bodo City where she shows us both the environmental devastation and the work she does with young women to revive hope. With 180 degrees of animations, Oil In Our Creeks surrounds viewers with the past, present and future of a community grappling with the very local impact of the global oil trade.

Created by Valentina Paggiarin and her team,  “Dreams of Blue” explores what happens inside the “mind” of an Artificial Intelligence that becomes a Singularity, both self-conscious and self-aware, and reflects on the meaning of life on the basis of what she extrapolates from the Internet.

In a similar vein around AI, the award winning film by Pierre Zandrowicz I,Philip speaks to the what if. In early 2005, David Hanson, an American robotics, is developing its first android human. His name is Phil and it is simply the copy of the famous science fiction author Philip K. Dick. In a few weeks Phil became famous on the Web and in the author’s fan circles. It is presented in several conferences around the world. In late 2005, the head of the android disappeared during an America West Airlines  flight between Dallas and Las Vegas. Through the memories of the android and those of the author, the film offers an interpretation of Phil’s life.

Created by David Beier, Going Home is a surreal glimpse into the mind of an elderly man suffering a massive heart attack. As doctors fight to keep him alive, the man’s life flashes before his eyes and the reality of his past and present begin to merge together in amazing and beautiful ways.

A highlight of the weekend was watching new people approach VR with fresh eyes and having the wonder of new worlds open before them, and watching people who knew VR experience empathy within the films or the breathtaking fun and laughter of the games. I am grateful to Dianne for creating the first free VR Cinema in South Africa with Sozo Labs and for all the creators for giving us their amazing work for free! It helped us reach an audience that will grow up to be creators of our future worlds.

During the festival, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel with Colin Payne, Sozo Labs and Polymorph, Jean Mortlock, Lung Animation and Rick Treweek, AltReality. We discussed aspects of VR from what is the business model to hardware costs as barrier to entry to the various markets and industries that will benefit from VR and AR to the storytelling challenges in VR and AR. It was a great panel discussion and I am so happy to have started my moderation journey on a panel passionate about VR.

Looking forward to next year, Dianne and Cape Town International Animation Festival!

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