Greeted by a pesky rain shower, the World VR Forum’s Annual Summit speakers and contestants were invited to a glamorous Award Ceremony to celebrate their astounding achievements in VR at the end of the third and final conference day of the second edition, at Le Regent Congress Center in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on Saturday, 13 May, 2017.
Dressed in their best evening garbs of the latest third millennium fashion, the guests were led into the pitch-dark conference room temporarily transformed into a suave dining hall to accommodate the long-awaited gala. Soon, the first subtle lights ignited the stage and Neal Hartman, World VR Forum’s charismatic Chairman and Researcher from CERN delivered a short introductory speech to set the mood for the opening act.
To the guests’ surprise, the large transparent globe which has been completely idle on the stage for the past three conference days was now shimmering and rolling with a dancer inside it towards the amused crowd to the fast-paced rhythm of a mildly hypnotic techno-track. Encor Studio and WVRF’s Director of Programming, Maria Guta captivated the audience with their feisty performance.
Summit’s participants enjoy the opening act of the WVRF’s Annual Summit’s Award Ceremony.
After a couple of humorous comments from the Master of Ceremony – Mario Kenyon, “who knew Maria was hiding in the globe the whole time?” and WVRF’s President’s, Clayton Doherty’s speech on the trials and tribulations of delivering the Imperial Crown Prize to Crans-Montana, the judges invaded the stage and it was time to announce the Festival’s winning freshly baked VR masterpieces along with their charmingly eccentric creators.
The jury was composed of Anna Charrière, New Media Mission Manager at the National Centre for Cinema and Animated Images; Carl Guyenette, a philosophising futurist, computer scientist and creative technologist; Chuck Peil, Founding Member of Reel FX; James Fong, CEO of Jaunt VR China; Shari Frilot, Senior Programmer and Chief Curator of the New Frontier section of the Sundance Film Festival; and Denise Quesnel, VR Village Programme Chair and Researcher of Immersive Realities at Siggraph.
To cheerful outbursts and flickering cameras, the winning titles appeared one by one on the massive projection screen. Chocolate, a psychedelic VR music video featuring cats and champagne, from the USA, by Tyler Hurd, was awarded for The Best User Experience. HanaHana, a post-apocalyptic sandbox VR experience where one builds their own world with hundreds of hands that keep multiplying, from Switzerland, by Melodie Mousset and Naem Baron, took home The Best Interactivity Prize.
Ex/Static, a surreal VR journey through Quba Michalski’s thoughts on art, society, culture and technology, from the USA, by Michalski, received a Innovative Storytelling Prize. Las Meninas of Velasquez, which, makes Velasquez paintings come to life, submerging one into the heart of the epic action in the VR animated chef d’oeuvres from France, by Carlos Franklin was awarded The Education Prize.
Last but not least, the supreme winner of WVRF’s mind-boggling VR competition was announced. After Solitary, a gut puncturing documentary on solitary confinement, from the USA, by Cedric Gamelin, Cassandra Herman and Lauren Mucciolo of Emblematic Group snagged the Imperial Crown.
“For the Imperial Crown Prize, we have chosen to honour a work that pushes VR storytelling through its fresh approach and clever use of room scale VR technology to elegantly and viscerally communicate a pervasive sense of confinement,” stated Frilot. According to Frilot, “this work demonstrates the potential of VR to stimulate discourse that is at once political and personally vulnerable, by creating strong connections to character, and developing a palpable sense of closeness to his plight.”
Gamelin appeared on stage, humbly thanking his project collaborators and WVRF, as well as revealing some major knobs and nails of his hardcore documentary.
As the applause escalated, Gamelin concluded “no traditional film, no article, no talks could make me feel the abyss of solitary confinement the way that I felt it in this Virtual Reality experience; and this is the potency of VR, to put you in a story that you can feel and remember with your entire body.
Official Selection (In Competition)
The ceremony concluded with Doherty reminding the audience to applaud all amazing creations that took part in the VR Festival’s Official Selection which included: Beyond the Typhoon, which transports one into the post-typhoon landscape of the Gulangyu Island in Xiamen China, from Switzerland, by David Houncheringer, Valerio Spoletini and Mirko Eremita; Lost Memories, a VR dive deep into the sea of lost memories, from Italy, by Stefania Casini; Patterns-Red, a horror-poetic VR hypnosis session, from Canada, France and India, by Pierre Friquet; The Other Dakar, which takes the viewer into the invisible Dakar, from Senegal, by Selly Raby Kane; Through You, which explores love and relationships through dance, from the USA, by Saschka Unseld and Lily Baldwin; and Waba, an interactive piece in which a cute, fluffy creature called Waba grows and prospers, was brought in from the USA by Tyler and Edwon.
Official Selection (Out of Competition)
Out of Competition works in the Official Selection also did not fail to impress the crowd with: Anyways, a VR rail-road movie, from Netherlands, by Keez Duyves and Willem Weemhoff; Arden’s Wake, an animated VR adventure of a young woman named Arden through post-apocalyptic waters, from the USA, by Eugene Chung and Jimmy Maidens; Defrost: Episodes 3+4 about Joan Garrison who gets defrosted in 2045, from the USA, by Tanna Frederick and Randal Kleiser; Rebirth-Redirect, a VR version of an afterlife inhabited by alien terrorists and composed of psychedelic landscapes, from the USA, by Jeremy Couillard; and To the Light, an Augmented Reality piece, in which, one can virtually transport to the mountain tops of Crans-Montana, from Switzerland, by Robin Mange and Javier Bello Ruiz.
As the WVRF team took a bow, the ceremony came to its grand finale, and a bountiful feast was enjoyed in its honour until the guests took off to the final after-fiesta of the night at the spacious and cozy Red Bull Dome.