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January 24th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

"VR TO GO allowed us to conquer new audiences" - Myriam Achard (Phi Centre)

A place of cultural excellence in Montreal, the Phi Centre had a special year (as did everyone else) but did not lose its taste for innovation and curiosity, even in times of pandemic.

Participating in September as a satellite venue at the Venice VR Expanded festival, the Phi Center also announced some new features including a virtual reality offer at home (PHI VR TO GO), and a new distribution of CARNE Y ARENA that will hit the road again in the United States, Canada and Europe in 2021, in a version optimized by Phi for this new tour. Enough to wait for the reopening of the cultural venues...

Keeping in touch with the public: VR TO GO

Myriam Achard - Currently in Quebec cultural venues are closed from October 1st, 2020 until February 8th, 2021 (for the moment), with a curfew. PHI VR TO GO was launched last spring, during the first containment. The idea was born out of an early discussion with the desire to continue to provide people with cultural content. If people (our audience and others!) can't come to us, how can we go to them? We wanted something stronger than just a link to social networks. We started with a first selection of 10 "Discover the world" projects that could interest both insiders and outsiders of RV: animation, documentaries, etc. A second "Imaginary Tales" program centered on the films of Atlas V was launched at the beginning of 2021.

See the selections

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M. A. - We were sold out for the first month (in the spring of 2020 and during the Christmas vacations - for family moments), and the innovation attracted the media. In Montreal there are 75 helmets in circulation, and in Quebec City 25 - Only Oculus Go. Logistically, it's fluid for the spectator who can book either of the selections at will. Both are available but we prepare the headsets with our VR viewing application and the easiest possible access to the content - the Go is delivered without the controller. The navigation is eye-catching, so it had to be user-friendly. No computer, no wifi, nothing superfluous! The rental system is organized around 48h rental: the rental days being Tuesday and Friday. We have CleanBoxes to clean the equipment. Since the implementation of the service we have not experienced any particular problem. We don't want to make it too complex but we are developing our app for the Pico and soon the Quest 2.

M. A. - On the public side, we realized that there were many users who had never seen an RV movie, and became adepts of the medium. It is an offer that allows this type of discovery and initiation. It is also a device which, for a cultural place like ours, allows in fine to develop its public. Even in the circumstances that we know. And while we await future programming, the two current programs are set up on a long-term basis, and we are also delighted for the rights holders, producers and creators. The idea of VR TO GO is not to replace our traditional exhibitions and activities.

CARNE Y ARENA, ISS... Larger-than-life exhibitions in 2021

M. A. - CARNE Y ARENA should have started in December in Montreal, and it is hoped to offer it from mid-March to the end of June 2021. We wanted to "tease" the event by pre-selling tickets as early as the end of 2020 (with an unconfirmed date for the reopening). The response from the public has been excellent, with many tickets already sold out. It should be noted that the experience will not be offered directly at the Phi Center, which is too small, but at the Montreal Arsenal - like the exhibition around the ISS that we are producing with Felix & Paul Studios. The second "kit" of CARNE Y ARENA is in Denver, which is open until the end of January. We hope to offer the experience of Alejandro González Iñárritu very soon in other places in the USA and elsewhere.

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Book for the experience (Montreal or Denver/Aurora)

M. A. - Phi is not like a museum to plan its exhibitions too far in advance. We remain agile and reactive to the technologies and works on offer. The next one, in the spring, is obviously already ready, but we are thinking about what to do next. Travelling exhibitions are also planned. Our work with Félix & Paul around the ISS is a big project for us, and we also want to keep this event running.

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