The Biarritz media library, open to new technologies under the impetus of Nathalie Bargetzi (head of the image department), has set up a distribution space for films in Virtual Reality (shot in 360° and viewed in a headset). But the simple diffusion of works is not enough for a fundamental cultural work for the public. Thus, I was offered to lead a week-long workshop in July 2018 to make Virtual Reality films for teenagers. To also invent and install methods and skills so that other VR workshops can be set up later.
How did this 360° audiovisual creation workshop take place? What was the pedagogical and animation logic implemented? What are the results? How to be inspired by it?
What better way to shed light on the challenges of a new technology than to experiment with it? That is to say, not to start with “good principles” that we would have established beforehand to reassure ourselves, but to choose to go on an adventure with the participants. But in this case, how can we maintain a constructive framework?
From the first morning, after the presentations and after having raised the stakes, I suggested to the participants that they each shoot a shot with the camera in the media library, to experiment with what they imagine. Looking at these images collectively then, in the afternoon, was in itself an important learning moment, from which film ideas were born.
The ideas that come from looking at these very strange images, binocular or planispheric, have generated many creative ideas that go beyond the academic framework of the simple film shot at 360°. Critical thinking is born from a distant look, imbued with humour, diversion, reflection, sharing ideas about the images that each other have made. What is rich, important and playful in my opinion is to question the performance itself: what is watching a film in a helmet? And how these images inspire us with many other things too. I didn’t impose anything, but after viewing many multiple desires for images were born, on which I based myself for the rest of the workshop.
Leave room and time for the participants’ desires to build themselves, this is how the framework is built, i.e. the solid support of collective work. This requires, in turn, letting go, opening up to proposals that may be far from those we had imagined.
The participants in this workshop were teenagers, but there were also three film speakers and Nathalie Bargetzi, who were both participants and in training. It was more a collective, creative and technical elaboration, within the framework I had set. Thus no one is overhanging the others, it is a common invention, which enriches everyone in a different place. For adults, the challenge was to be able to perpetuate this type of workshop, of which it was a first. We have invented creative principles and technical procedures.
My principle is also that each day has a goal and a result. At the beginning of the day, we set the objective for everyone, the groups and the small teams, and at the end of the day we came up with something.
The handling of the machines, the multiple technical problems posed by this technology (the camera that does not work properly, that heats up and stops, the telephone to remotely control it that disconnects, the understanding of where the front and rear are, the two camera models with their advantages and disadvantages, the ad hoc software that does not work, bugs, etc.) are all opportunities for exchanges, common development, awareness of constraints, which invite to design concrete and inventive film projects.
Every evening I put the films made during the day online (mostly on a shot-sequence principle, which has the double advantage of allowing the projection right after, so the construction of the gaze, as well as allowing a very invested common work, because everything must be successful at the same time). In this way, participants and their families and friends could watch the productions outside the time of the workshop. This nurtured the reflection, sharing and social legitimization of the work being done.
A selection of the films made during this workshop can be seen on this dedicated private page. You will be able to see the diversity and quality of it. Some are the finalized films, some are experiments:
Direct link to the dedicated private page: http://www.benoitlabourdette.com/_docs/projects/2018/2018_mediatheque_biarritz_stage_vr/
It seems to me very important that the work done is fully appropriate for the participants: these are their films, so they must be accessible to them, in a way that is both immediate and sustainable. That’s why I use a private server to distribute the work done.
What the facilitator brings to this type of workshop is, among other things, this framework for enhancing the value of productions. Because the challenge of a workshop is the journey of each participant, what he or she builds for himself or herself. And the inscription (the published text, the image preserved and accessible) and one of the strong tools with which we build ourselves.
As the week progressed and creative experiments were carried out, ambitions were born. That of making an ambitious scenario-based fiction film, which had the possibility of evolving according to the shooting, as well as that of making a science fiction film shot inside a space shuttle. Both films are designed to work both in the 360° headset and in “flat” projection on a large screen. These ambitions were born of themselves, through the experiences of the group and the fact that it was becoming more and more cohesive.
The dynamics of the group, the communication between its participants is one of the keys to a successful mediation project: for this to happen, it is also necessary to leave the mental space for everyone to build their place.
The issue of the time of public restitution at the end of the week is raised at the beginning of the workshop. All films are made with the aim of being presented. The last film (the one shot in the space shuttle, with many special effects made live) was not yet finished. Thus the restitution took place in three phases:
Projection of the films on a large screen.
Shooting of the latest version of the film “Space Shuttle” in public.
Broadcasting of the “space shuttle” film on a large screen + viewing of the films in 360° headsets.
Thus, without us having initially planned it, this restitution, which included a moment of public filming, was very rich for the spectators, a real moment of discovery and shared creative experience.
A “test” film made on the first day, a collective film that presents the media library and the “ambitious” fiction film.
The films called “VR” (Virtual Reality) are films, linear or interactive, shot with 360° cameras, which can be viewed either on screen by moving inside the image with the mouse or the finger, either with a helmet placed in front of the eyes while turning the head. The films you find here use or divert this production and broadcasting technology. Because a technology is not neutral and must be questioned.