I usually use the word ‘immersive’ when I refer to water.

, Geert-Jan Bogaerts

Tuesday October 18th the second VPRO Medialab Meet Up took place. This time Cinekid for Professionals was co-curator and also location and immersive storytelling the theme. Geert-Jan Bogaerts, head Digital at VPRO, listened attentively to the presentations and the six tables during the Meet the Maker round and concluded the Meet Up about immersive storytelling.

immersion in media

I usually use the word ‘immersive’ when I refer to water. Cool, refreshing, on a warm day, or a steaming-hot bath when it’s freezing outside. Completely immersing into water. That water can reduce your senses to the mere touch of your skin.

On the other hand, in the media immersion has an entirely different connotation. There is no water involved and all your senses are stimulated to their maximum potential. These two different types of immersion have one thing in common: you allow it to you take over. Anyone who ever spends an evening on the couch with a good book or an exciting film knows exactly what I am talking about. You forget the time, thirst and hunger, because you are completely immersed in the story.

Both your commitment to the story and the enthusiasm of the writer or director can determine whether you have such an experience or not. The revolution currently happening in media is made possible by the new technology that makes such immersion possible. This is what media creators discussed at the Cinekid for Professional festival during the second VPRO Medialab Meet Up on October 18th.

Every medium needs its own story

The fact that the technology exists, doesn’t automatically mean that the stories are good. It’s just like the early days of cinema. The first films with a narrative were merely recordings of plays; the directors didn’t see film as a separate medium that required its own language. It took another couple of decades before masterpieces like Citizen Kane came to the big screen according to British maker Ersin han Ersin.

As is the case with the emergence of new technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Both require you to wear special glasses and headphones that let you forget your surroundings and put you right in the middle of a scene. The difference between the two is that AR projects onto your existing reality and VR completely replaces your reality.

Besides image, there was also attention to audio

Defining this new language can be quite a task. The first VR films place the viewer on a rollercoaster. That can create quite the experience, but most programmers want to offer more than an experience; they want to tell a story. And if we could conclude one thing from the last Meet Up, it would be that everyone is still looking for their form and content.

And in coherence with that: the VR and AR technology has become so advanced that the big creative steps are no longer been made by lonely brainiacs that work away in their attics for years. It has become a true team effort, with contributions from designers, programmers, directors, screenwriters and set designers.

During the Meet Up, it was great to see how programme developers emphasised the design of sound. The first VR-experiences focused a lot on the visual aspects, but for a true immersion sound is just as important. And that coincides with the way we at the VPRO constructed our first AR-production (premiering this week): the HoloLens experience at the Dutch Design Week. The story was written by radio plays writers and then we added video to the audio.