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September 19th, 2018 | by Mathieu Gayet

"In my mind, immersion will happen. It will spread." - Mathieu Pradat (THE ROAMING VR)

Filmmaker and architect, Mathieu Pradat inscribes his practice in the growing interaction between virtual and real worlds, like so many territories carrying knowledge and emotions. He explores new narrative forms specific to VR, in particular the spatial aspects of editing and sound specific to this new medium.

Mathieu Pradat - My initial training is architecture. I've worked as an architect and built houses, gymnasium, swimming pools. Quite a few buidings. I started to get interested in Virtual Reality in the 1990ies, as a student in architecture, with the first releases of BIM (Building Information Modeling) softwares. In particular, I was very fond of VRML plug-ins that allowed to visualize on a flat screen a 360° experience of a space. It was possible to navigate in all directions in a building clicking from one reference point to another. I loved it. I thought it was a revolution in the way we could, as architect, go further into creating spaces and also more easily communicate ideas to clients and public. It took almost 20 years to become widespread in architecture.

M. P. - In parallel to my carrer as an architect, I wrote and directed several documentaries and fictions for TV and Cinema. I started at architecture school with experimental movies shot on Video. In 2014, I discovered Thomas Wallner's Polar Sea 360 for Arte. It totally fascinated me. I started to think about narration in VR. I screened everything that I could find. I was working on a documentary project at the time called "INNER PLACES". I prototyped a 360 film right away. It was the opportunity to test all the cameras, all the rigs, I could put my hand on. And also it was a moment, where I had the chance to test pretty much all the stitching softwares on the market. I met many people on this occasion that I since frequently work with : Poll Pebe Pueyrredón from 3PFilms, Franck Marandet from Bemerssive, Amaury La Burthe from AudioGaming and Grégoire Parain From Novelab.

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M. P. - Following that, I wanted to create a VR fiction. I shot PROXIMA. Here's the story : A vibrant light leads a man into the night. He follows it without knowing where it takes him. Whenever he is about to reach it, it shirks, and drags him further. Lead character is awesome actor Fabrice Adde, whom I was collaborating for the second time after my short films for cinema THE DOG. This 360 film was selected in more than 20 international festival inclunding Venice Virtual (La Mostra del Cinema), Locarno, GIFF and was awarded Best VR/AR production at Frankfurt's 2018 3rd Biennale.

THE ROAMING @ VENICE VR

M. P. - THE ROAMING - WETLANDS in my first Room Scale project. It's a coproduction with La prairie productions and DV group (Coline Delbaere and Nicolas Corman). It's distributed by Diversion Cinema (Paul Bouchard). The story is inspired by Charles Laughton's masterpiece, "The Night of the Hunter" with Robert Mitchum and Lilian Gish. It's a musical adventure where the user has to held two kids, David and Pearl, to escape an evil man.

M. P. - The story is set in the Mississipi delta. Danger and heroism are close at hands. One of the character in the story, The Voodoo Man is performed live. We've done almost 300 representations of WETLANDS, The Roamings' first chapter in Venice. Not a single user reacts the same way. Each experience is different. The intensity of the experience lived by each User was striking.

VR industry to be: a future

Immersive devices and applications will offer many thrilling opportunities to experience things that seem today out of reach. I'm in particular very eager to experiment future experiences of teaching and learning in an immersive envrionment. In my mind, immersion will happen. It will spread. in pretty much all human activities. It will be everywhere. Wether immersion will be some king of alienation, a submission to mass consumerism or a liberation, the opportunity to connect people, to improve education, to build a sustainable economy, to have people relating to one another, well, this is the responsability of all the actors of immersion. There is a necessity to become independent in Europe both for hardware and platforms in VR, XR, holograms and what is to come. We're really far from it right now, but it's feasible. The Galileo project or the Airbus industry whould be models for us in Europe. If we believe, and we're many, that immersion is a major shift in the way we're going to experience reality, we need to be part of it. We need R&D, we need to create the devices, to get hold of platforms to release contents. Because creating content is not enough.

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As an author and a creator of Immersive stories, I think I have a responsibility in building experiences that will make the audience have a very entertaining moment and also grasp, beyond the present work, what Immersion is about and how it can be developed. It is a new form of expression bringing new ways to experience emotions within stories, new ways to understand, to look at reality and to relate to others. Big players of Immersions such as the GAFAs, have their own agendas. Independent storytellers can also be eye-openers for the public to grasp the opportunities offered by immersion.

I hope Immersion will develop in various forms, 360 movies, room scale, performative works.... The experience of immersion, like the experience of cinema for instance, is something to be built consciously, by authors, producers, distributors, proposing the best experiences for the public. It can be about meeting people and sharing. That's why I'm so interested in multi-users immersive narrative and live-action narratives right now. I've been very much interested this last year by projects such as Cosmos Within Us (Tupac Martir), Alice The Virtual Reality Play (Mathias Chelebourg / Marie Jourdren), Separate Silences (David Wedel), Draw Me Close (Jordan Tannahill).

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