I had the opportunity to attend the first ever SIFFX event as part of the Seattle Film Festival. The event was an exploration of new media and storytelling techniques using virtual reality and 360 video production. I got to try the latest Occulus head set and the Samsung Gear VR and was blown away how easily my senses were fooled into transporting me to other planets and under the ocean. One of the displays had people sitting on toilets and it just went to show how we can be so immersed in this new world that we no longer pay attention to where we are. When you watch someone who is viewing 360 VR you will see their bodies thrash about completely unaware of the present moment. When you think about it that way, we are using technology to come closer and closer to augment the way our mind already works. As human beings we are constantly struggle to remain present while thoughts perseverate on the past and future.
As with all technology there is a frightening potential for negative and unintended consequences as well as the good. I was impressed with the intellectual conversations, panels and discussions that addressed the philosophical and ethical issues pertaining to this new technology. We are seeing some amazing work being done in documentary filmmaking and journalism. I was particularly moved by pieces that took me into refugee camps and allowed me to swim with whales. Keynote Speaker Nonny de la Peña was a trailblazer in this technology and her retrospective show reinforced the potential of an image to spark deep emotion. Her work explored issues around abortion, poverty, and violent crime in a way that made you feel as though you were there and witness to all of this and powerless to do anything. It was a powerful experience.
Ultimately I feel as though I am just catching up to the world my friend Whitney Rowlett has been working in as a CGI film producer in LA. I finally feel like I understand what she has been describing to me about her work. The word for the decade may become STITCHING! The cgi world is a composite of imagery that must be stitched together. Perhaps our own reality is nothing more than our perceptions stitched together.