Riga IFF Goes VR: Inspirational Talks and Hackathon

The Othvrs went to Latvia last week to visit Riga International Film Festival and Riga Digital Forum. Here's what we got up to!

We were honoured to be invited to the gorgeous city of Riga for this years brand new Riga IFF Goes VR program at the International Film Festival, and to Riga Digital Forum, a new technology film festival located at RISEBA, a University of Business, Art and Technology.

Fi and Tessa attended the festivals to deliver two talks. The first, at Riga IFF, was held alongside VR giants Wim Forceville, Wim Wouters, and Alex Herrmann. This talk was called Why VR: Making with Meaning and explored topics for filmmakers bridging the gap between their traditional filmic experiences into 360 and VR platforms.

We also spoke about The Othvrs collaborative, and about the tenants of the group, using our recent St Pauls Carnival video as an example of creating something with meaning in mind. To the audience, we introduced our approach to workshops and new creators, our informal style of teaching and our use of non-technical language to engage a wider audience, and bring a larger spectrum of individuals into the medium. This includes not only ethnographically different makers, but makers from different disciplines of art.

Watch the Riga IFF Goes VR talks here

Not only was our talk and the conversations around its content interesting, but we had a lot of fun seeing the projects our fellow speakers talked about.

The same day we headed to RISEBA, and Riga Digital Forum to take a look at the tech talks and panels happening on the same day. Here we delivered a talk in-depth on topics of ethicality as Virtual Reality makers, as the medium is more visceral, affecting, and new.

This talk was to some extent a continuation of our previous talk, labelled Making With Meaning: Empathy and Accountability in VR. In this we delved into topics such as charity and NGO content, which was brought up a lot during the previous lectures. We spoke on VR's Good and Bad. The flipside of both its heavy impact on viewers, and it's ability to manipulate and be voyeuristic just the same as any other content or documentary.

Fi and Tessa at RDF in RISEBA

In this talk we ran through some examples of excellent VR we thought was well thought-out and considers how to treat its audience and content.

  • Carne Y Arena (Using multimedia to bring the viewer physically into the story, not a misery tourism experience.)

  • The Machine To Be Another (An ongoing project, exploring empathy deeper than traditional film or cinematic VR.)

  • Awavena (Made completely partnered with the tribe the experience is based on. Created as a gift from the people to the world, rather than a film about a subject.)

  • We Wait (Not a peak into another life, you are "there" with "them". Characters only speak when you look at them.)

  • Testimony (Created for survivors to tell their stories, and for the audience to bear witness. You must focus on a story to hear it, and likewise must look away and the story will fade slowly.)

Feel free to research more on these projects and their fantastic creators. Carne Y Arena and Awavena are only viewable in their exclusive installation spaces, but are toured regularly.

The following day, Tess and Fi joined Riga IFF, the Wims, and Alex again as mentors and judges for the 24-hour Hackathon.

The Hackathon's brief was to create some kind of Virtual Reality or 360 experience in 24 hours. This could be done by any means; the event providing cameras, headsets, computers, recording equipment and their wonderful mentors for inspiration.

The participants had the options to follow 5 briefs suggested by 5 organisations around the topic of Education and sparking young people's interest. These were on topics such as tourism, contemporary art, raising interest in voting, and so on.

We had a lot of fun at this event, not only helping out with the projects and supporting those there, but seeing what great ideas and teamwork did in pulling together a project.

The next day, we joined the participants again back at Riga IFF's Splendid Palace venue to watch presentations from the teams. The projects were then screened, all judges viewing the different content. There was a wide variety of experiences, ranging from AR, to instructional guides, to projects encouraging neck-stretching for medical purposes.

Four projects were awarded with various prizes, some winning the chance to visit conference/expo events to potentially network and expand their ideas further.

All in all, it was an incredible experience to visit Riga for the first time for us. We learnt a lot, made new friends, and were fully welcomed into the festivals for the time we were there. Thank you Riga IFF and RDF!

Find out more about the festivals here: