One of the main attractions at Hot Docs this year is the DocX Virtual Reality Showcase, exhibited at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Using 3D stereoscopy video, Oculus Rift technology, and Samsung’s Gear virtual reality headset, this exhibit allows you to view one of four short documentary films to transmit you into unforgettable environments. For my experience at the DocX VR Showcase, I chose the 7 minute film Herders, by Montreal-based filmmakers Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël.
Herders is a film that transports viewers into the heart of a community of yak herders in Mongolia. The short consists of multiple short scenes, most of which take place in the middle of rolling hillscapes. There are things happening at all angles and the viewer can rotate 360° to find a point of focus. Some examples featured in the film include a man playing a drum on a hill, a family preparing a meal, and and group of horses running past. For each of these scenes, I felt like I was right in the middle of the action. The camera remains stationary for each of these scenes and I didn’t not really feel any motion sickness, though I did feel some of the eye strain that comes from stereoscopic images.
This example I experienced shows that the use of virtual reality in documentary filmmaking shows some real promise. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops in the coming years.
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 | REALLY LIKED IT
The DocX Virtual Reality Showcase is available for viewing at the Isabel Bader Theatre from Friday April 24 to Friday May 1, daily from 10am to 7pm