"In Vestige, you are surrounded primarily by blackness, grasping at emotions and memories that emerge as you navigate the space. You’re guided by the narration of Lisa as she recalls life with her young husband, Erik, and the events leading up to his tragic death. The project has already touched hearts—so much so that it became the third ever sale of a virtual reality experience at a major film festival, joining Zikr: A Sufi Revival on the slate of the UK’s new VR distributor, Other Set." ~ Liz Nord, No Film School
The experience presents subtle differences with each viewing. Alternate paths through Lisa's memories are navigated by the viewer's gaze and position within the apartment. The score seamlessly moves between evolving soundscape and more linear pieces of music.
I led on sound design for the project which involved liaising with the film's composer, Starkey on the assets for the score and how they would be assembled to form a seamless path throughout this branching experience. I also created the sounds of Lisa's memories of her time with Erik as they manifest around their apartment. Working closely with Duane our main developer, using Google's Resonance spatial audio system in FMOD and Unity, we were able to map sound onto the characters and their movements in a realistic 3D space and render it in binaural stereo.
The project premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in New York but more recently (and closer to home) we saw its European debut at Sheffield Doc/Fest. Installed in Trafalgar Warehouse, within the Alternate Realities section of the festival, I went down to see how people experienced Vestige and to find out what else is happening in the immersive spaces outside of traditional media.
On Friday, in a big dome outside The Crucible Theatre, I got to sit it on our Meet The Maker session with Vestige director Aaron and producer Paul Mowbray. Also on the panel was Kalina Bertin and Sandra Rodriguez from EyeSteelFilm, discussing their project "Manic VR" - a companion piece to Kalina's documentary exploring her sibling's experiences with bipolar disorder. It was really interesting to compare the two projects, both exploring deeply personal struggles as told by their subjects. Sadly, I didn't get the chance to experience Manic VR due to it being solidly booked up (as were most of the installations over my visit), but according to those I spoke to that did, it's popularity is unsurprising.
A story that I did get to experience, however, was 'Face To Face'. An installation and 360 documentary about Michelle, who wears a prosthetic face mask after a tragic, accidental gun injury. A shotgun blast took away Michelle’s eyes, nose, and upper palate, leaving her permanently blind and unable to smell. The visitor makes their way through three spaces, each revealing more of Michelle's story through recreated family spaces, 360 documentary footage, and interviews. It's an incredibly powerful piece of work that made me feel a sense of awe at the resilience that Michelle shows but also forced me to challenge my feelings of apprehension and discomfort when confronted with this life-changing injury and damage within the vulnerable isolation that VR creates.
Face To Face won the Virtual Reality Award at the close of the festival on Tuesday with our very own Vestige coming in second place and receiving an honorary mention from the Jury! A huge pat on the back is due to all the Doc/Fest staff and volunteers for running such a great festival and giving all of us creators a chance to meet, discuss, explore and be entertained. Here's hoping I can make it back next year!