VR @ i-Docs 2016

The emergence of VR and 360 video as non-fiction platforms has been the single most dramatic development since the last i-Docs Symposium in 2014. A wave of enthusiasm and experimentation has followed the appearance of the Oculus Rift and its competitor products – with creators fascinated by the documentary potential of 360 immersion and the visceral sense of presence that it can offer.

With a VR Bazaar including two projects previously unseen in the UK, a number of panels and the sharing of work-in-progress, i-Docs 2016 offers a unique opportunity for a dialogue about what this emerging medium means for documentary.

Discussions will consider the practical, aesthetic and ethical challenges of VR. How to make creative sense of the position of the viewer within a 360 documentary experience? What are the implications of 360 recording technologies for the documentary subject? What do headset based experiences mean for the audience? Panelists will probe the at times heady claims being made for 360 documentary, reflect on how VR relates both to the long history of documentary immersion and to the more recent development of interactivity. And they will consider where documentary VR might be heading.

On Show in the VR Bazaar

6 X 9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement – Beta version. 


Created by Francesca Panetta & Lindsay Poulton for the Guardian

Direct from Sundance (where it was among the top 5 selections by verge.com) 6 x 9 highlights the experience of the 80,000-100,000 Americans who spend 22-24 hours a day alone in their cells, with little or no human contact for days or even decades.

The Frequency of Honey

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 11.42.48

Director – Peter Boyd Maclean , Executive Producer –  Zillah Watson for the BBC 2016

Step inside the world of Bioni Samp, an urban beekeeper who makes honey – and music – from his bees. This 360 profile takes you deep inside the beehive for an intense visual and aural experience.

Witness 360°: 7/7

Witness 360° Virtual reality journalism as engine for empathy going beyond the re-telling of events

Darren Emerson 2014

Nominated for the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling 2015 and the IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction, Witness 360 puts the viewer into the position of one of those who experienced the bombing attacks that shocked London on July 7, 2005.


Oscar Raby's Assent - the combintaion of Oculus-Rift-technology and immersive story-telling at its best

Oscar Raby 2014

The Caravan of Death was a brutal campaign that executed military detainees in Chile during the aftermath of the coup in 1973. In this Virtual Reality documentary, media artist Oscar Raby puts the viewer in the footsteps of his father, who was an army officer, on the fateful day when the Caravan of Death came to his regiment. Assent is a multi-award winning project – recipient of the Sheffield DocFest Audience Award for Innovation 2014 among others and has been a huge influence on the emerging documentary 360 scene.

Francesca Panetta, Zillah Watson and Darren Emerson will all be at i-Docs and joined by Catherine Allen who is producing a VR project for BBC Knowledge & Learning for – VR: Inventing the Medium (1). For VR: Inventing the Medium (2), Oscar Raby will join us via Skype from Melbourne with his collaborators at VRTV producer Katy Morrison and ( i-Docs Research Associate at large) Jess Linington to discuss Assent and their more recent work.

In other panels:

Jamie McRoberts will discuss ‘Virtual Presence and the Politically Contested’ in his work Maze3 – a first-person immersive experience of the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, a volatile centre-point during a thirty-year, violent conflict over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, known as the ‘Troubles”.

Annie Berman will reflect on her Oculus Rift documentary ‘Utopia 1.0: Post-Neo-Futurist-Capitalism in 3D!’ which explores the remnants of Second Life, a formerly thriving virtual 3D world, and investigates its susceptibility to the same economic pitfalls that plague our ‘real’ world.

Sarah Nelson Wright will talk about ‘Over the River’ – a virtual reality experience of Hunter’s Point South – a large, formerly industrial New York site built on layers of landfill that was left fallow for 40 years and grew into a verdant forest with robust ecology. In fall 2015, the city removed the forest to make way for high- rise condominiums and an official public park. This virtual reality documentary transports users to this uncanny urban space, allowing them access to a place that no longer exists.

The Promise of VR panel will comprise three papers: Deniz Tortum – Breathing Archives: Immersive Nonfiction Storytelling through 3D Capture; Lucilla Calogero – Thinking in paradoxes: The more virtual it is, the more real it is; and me – Mandy Rose  -“The empathy machine”: hype, hope and immersion in non-fiction VR.

Claudia Prat will join Jamie McRoberts on the VR in Context panel to present ‘When VR Meets Journalism’.

Check out the whole programme and abstracts on the i-Docs 2016 microsite.

Hope to see you there.