Reality Check!

Virtual Reality (VR) takes you into stunning other worlds, by using immersive VR headsets and earphones. As I walked into the Mixed Reality Sidebar at Maquinez Palace today, I was greeted by a poster of Le Musk (2017), a multisensory film with several episodes, directed by music maestro AR Rahman. At an earlier screening at Los Angeles, this movie even featured a scent track! The team loaded the movie onto the Samsung Gear VR headset on my head, and the show began. Shot in Italy, with great visuals and a background score, and starring Nora Arnezeder, Le Musk is a fab virtual reality experience.

“The film is still a work in progress and in the end it will be run to about 45 minutes,” says assistant director and editor Anand Kishore. “It will be split into three parts for easier understanding. Since VR is a new media, we are still gauging how comfortable people are.” Creating a VR experience is challenging as everything is shot in 360 degrees. Anand says “the director builds visual cues in the visual sphere to make sure the viewer is seeing what he wants us to see.” This gives the experience ‘re-watch value’ so you can see discovers something new with each viewing.

“We set strict standards for ourselves. A lot of VR experiences tend to be monoscopic and not in true 3D,” said Sreerag Raghavan, the VR Technologist for Le Musk. “The whole film was designed to be 3D, in stereo, to be very life-like, to be an experience where the person is completely immersed.”

The Mixed Reality Sidebar also showcases 12 other movies, including the Hindi documentary, 
Crossing the Sky (2017), which is a captivating journey through the Himalayas. This inspiring story follows two sisters in the remote village at Uttarakhand as they travel over three hours to reach their school. There are brilliant 360 degree views with lush greenery around on their trip, and a makeshift ropeway makes you feel like you are dangling scarily mid-air. Rohan Raut, Director of Photography for Crossing the Sky says “There’s a lot of interest in VR movies. We screened it at different places including the Mumbai Metro and a lot of people came to watch it.”

“The VR sidebar has 25 operational VR headsets which the IFFI audience can enjoy,” says Vinay Nagashetti, who manages this IFFI 2017 highlight. “From 25th to 27th of November, we will host panel discussions on virtual reality. One of the great benefits of virtual reality is empathy building. One of the first uses was to take the camera the Syrian refugee camps so that you could feel yourself staying right there with them. ”

Another attraction here is the Augmented Reality Comic Book. AR enhances the real-world environment with sounds, video, graphics and more. In Priya’s Mirror ancient mythologies and the newest technologies are brought together to change attitudes about genderbased violence and acid attacks in India, Colombia and around the world. It has 38 comic panels which visitors can download via the Blippar app and when they scan the comic panel on the wall through the app, a second stream of content pops up, showing animation, videos and other links.

I found Shreya Sathe, a 20 year old Mass Communication student from Pune, excited by the comic experience.  “Augmented reality is fantastic. It’s a stronger medium as it’s closer to reality, compared with regular print books. It will take some time to appreciate this fully as it’s a completely new medium.”

– Niju Mohan