An avatar of actress Daisy Ridley, left, with her character, Magda. PA
Gulf Report Today
The pandemic may lead to complete lockdown, meaning confined to your home and extremely limited outdoor activity, but it doesn’t lock down your creativity. People have done all kinds of innovative things.
A cafe in Germany has customers wearing hats with pool noodles attached, so people can maintain social distancing. Another restaurant in the United States uses bumper tables, which have huge tubes to keep diners at bay.
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Current circumstances have also offered one way – perhaps multiple ways – to see the world of virtual reality. Zoom, the software, helps you organize e-conferences or virtual meetings with remote people, whether in your country or on the other side of the world, which have become the order of the day.
Now two Hollywood stars have taken this world up a notch. Daisy Ridley and Jennifer Hudson went to a movie premiere together last week. They posed for photos and made remarks from a stage as an audience quietly watched.
Or, more specifically, their avatars did, according to the Associated Press.
The actors were actually on different continents, brought together for a few minutes through virtual reality headsets to walk a red carpet, pose for photos in front of a march and rehearse and speak to a host of other avatars on behalf of their short- feature “Baba Yaga. It’s called the first-ever VR movie premiere.
“I really feel like I went to a premiere,” Hudson later said. “But I haven’t left the house! I think that’s a cool way to do it, especially right now.
She especially loved seeing her team and how similar their avatars looked.
Virtual movie premieres have become the norm in Hollywood since the pandemic began. “Events” usually involve just a start time for the movie to play on your home screen and, sometimes, a Zoom-style Q&A with talent afterwards. But Baobab Studios, the 6-year-old interactive animation studio behind a handful of motion picture VR experiences, has decided to push the boundaries of “Baba Yaga,” according to The Associated Press.
“I really don’t think we would have ever thought of this without COVID,” said Eric Darnell, the man behind the “Madagascar” films and co-founder of Baobab. “We usually premiere our films at festivals.”
“Baba Yaga” also had a proper premiere as part of the Venice Film Festival last year. But as it became increasingly clear that there would be no opportunity in the US, the company began working alongside consulting firm XR MESH to produce the ambitious event, which included the design of a rainforest room inspired by the one in the movie.
The virtual reality movie premiere is not entirely different from an actual premiere. There are publicists, filmmakers and actors, things to look at and displays to take selfies with (really). At this particular event, there was also a demarcated “restricted” area, although organizers said it was merely there to denote the end of space and not an exclusive side party.
And just like in real life events, you sometimes find yourself with no one to talk to and you walk around awkwardly listening. But in a VR premiere, you can’t even pretend to text or reply to emails. This journalist also had to remove her headset for a few minutes after feeling dizzy from virtual reality.
Darnell co-wrote and directed the film/experiment alongside Mathias Chelebourg. It also features the voices of Kate Winslet and Glen Close. The Rainforest movie and room are currently available through Oculus Quest.
Events like this may have been born out of necessity, but they could be the way of the future.
“Even though we’ve gone back to premiering at festivals, I still think it’s an amazing way to bring people together and say let’s celebrate this medium by having a party inside,” Darnell said.