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FIVARS February Edition Showcases Virtual Reality Storytelling

VRTO presents the FIVARS augmented and virtual reality film festival.


The seventh annual Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Storytelling (FIVARS) concluded its Winter session this Tuesday, March 9. The virtual reality film showcase, which was supposed to run from February 19 to March 2, was extended an extra week due to heavy attendance, according to event organizers.

FIVARS - Virtual Reality Storytelling

While it’s too late to get in on the Winter showcase, ARPost was invited to attend to give you a peek at the festival. Hopefully, these festival highlights will keep you plugged into the world of immersive cinema and get you fired up for the next event, which will take place in October.

Attending the FIVARS

The FIVARS Winter edition showcased 25 official selections. Not all of the selections were available to attendees at one time as showings cycled in and out based on demand. The result was a revolving door of popular and talked-about experiences that was different on each day of the festival.

Attendees attending the festival were able to enter through virtual reality headsets, or using compatible browsers on computers and smart devices. Some of the more immersive experiences were only available or best experienced with headsets and were available in a different gallery from those 360 video experiences that were accessible in webVR.

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Upon entering the experience, users selected an avatar and display name and other settings before hanging out in the lobby or preceding to the gallery of their choice. In either the lobby or the galleries, users could communicate via text or voice chat.

Within each gallery, selections were organized by genre, like screening rooms in a physical theater. Users could then approach the title screen for an experience that they were interested in and select it for more information including a brief description, the run-time, and significant contributors.

Exploring the February Selection

The international selection included moving documentaries, edge-of-your-seat horror, spatial music videos, and more.

Director Ken Winikur’s Don’t Forget Me takes viewers inside the experiences of concentration camp survivor George Brent. A volumetric capture of Brent guides visitors through his experience illustrated through a combination of 360-video, archival photographs, and chilling animations and audio.

Welcome to the Other Side – Zero Gravity took users inside of a 3D model of Notre Dame Cathedral for a virtual concert self-directed by musician Jean-Michel Jarre. The high-energy virtual reality experience, created in collaboration with the City of Paris and UNESCO, included a crowd of virtual concert-goers to share the experience with.

All Her Bodies - FIVARS
All Her Bodies

The extension of the festival brought it through International Women’s Day, and Elizabeth Leister, who created the FIVARS selection All Her Bodies, gave a special talk about how her piece used virtual reality as well as good, old-fashioned writing to relate the “individual stories of interiority” of the five women detailed in the experience.

Other experiences looked at the COVID-19 pandemic, questioned the meaning of memories and explored life experiences, or just told great stories.

The FIVARS and Virtual Reality Toronto

The FIVARS is hosted annually by Virtual Reality Toronto (VRTO). Last year’s festival in October was the first time that the festival took place virtually, and organizers are still sorting some things out.

“Since October when we launched the FIVARS online experience, we have expanded what is possible with webXR theater, and continue to build and optimize daily,” festival director and founder Keram Malicki-Sanchez said in a message to event attendees. “As is par for the course with the FIVARS, you are now participating with us in this historic moment.”

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All of the virtual reality experiences at the Winter showcase that just concluded had come out within the last six months. We can now look forward to the Fall showcase, which will run from October 15 to November 2, and include the 2021 FIVARS Awards.

Don’t Miss the FIVARS Return in October

Of course, you can always check back in with ARPost. We hope to be back in virtual reality at the FIVARS sessions in October to see a new selection of immersive experiences, as well as who takes home the awards.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.