Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for November, 2019

Reflections on Infinity Festival 2019 By Gerry O.

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

The 2019 Infinity Festival, celebrating “Story Advanced by Technology,” took place November 7 – 9th at Goya Studios in Hollywood, culminating with the 2019 IF Monolith Awards ceremony, presenting awards for technology and narrative arts to the best in the industry. Voted on by a body of professional peers, the Monolith Awards recognize excellent accomplishments in narrative arts and technology that showcase the concept of storytelling. These unique awards are prestigious in that they are given to companies and individuals that are paving the way in the ever evolving film and technology industries. The winners are innovative and have utilized new and futuristic technology to create content that can be experienced at a whole new level.

“Advancements in technology have enabled artists to tell their stories in new, exciting and often unexpected ways,” said Hanno Basse, Chairman, Infinity Festival. “The Infinity Festival Monolith Awards celebrate new versions of content enabled by technology and the inventions  that make them possible. Selected from a panel of their professional peers, these awards truly honor those who showcase the future of technology in storytelling and its incredible impact on how audiences will enjoy content. These awards are unique, because they recognize new ways of storytelling which may not fit into more traditional categories.”   See Gerry O.’s commentary below.

Reflections on Infinity Festival 2019 
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17  

It seems what can be done with technology never ceases to stop changing as society continues to innovate. While the masses marvel at what becomes capable, the entertainment industry monitors on how to implement these new inventions into the art of storytelling, and the Infinity Festival showcased just that – the new possibilities in cinema.

Creators have been experimenting with the new format of virtual reality for several years now, with impressive results. Gloomy Eyes Vol. 2, an animated short film that can be seen on the HTC Vive feels nothing like a traditional film that can be watched in theaters but in its unique way, manages to tell a whole, well-designed story. Structured like a diorama, the animated film happens around the viewer in a series of scenes that carefully guide the viewer where and how to look. While the experience can still be improved, the immense detail and rich storytelling serve as an example that virtual reality movies can be made, in some capacity.

Simulated Reality showed an educational use of this technology with 7 Miracles which allows the user to travel back in time to ancient Jerusalem and experience the life of Jesus Christ. The experience, however, fails in its limited video quality –  in standard “flat” cinema, cameras have delivered crisp video since the 1960s; virtual reality, on the other hand, looks grainy and the user can see individual pixels, to the point where it distracts from the experience. Looking in the future however, the possibilities of physically traveling to historic faraway locations have profound educational opportunities. Students can travel to different planets to learn about our solar system, or to different wars in history. They can take tours of the Louvre for art class, or walk among a Viennese symphonic orchestra for music class.

Intel attempted yet another strategy for films in virtual reality. This experience combines virtual reality with a moving chair to create “virtual reality theaters,” which allow someone to both see and feel the digital world. In an experience set in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, the viewer gets carried by a dragon through a beautiful and exciting adventure, but at the end one feels as if they experienced a carnival attraction that belongs in a theme park, not a film that belongs in a theater.

Outside of virtual reality, other technologies promise to help streamline the filmmaking process. Lenovo presented demos of their augmented reality headset, Think Reality, which attempts to use advanced glasses to project objects on walls around the user. In concept, this can be a beautiful tool for productions – the Assistant Director could have schedules and shot lists on their display. The Assistant Camera Operator could use augmented reality to help keep shots in focus. Yet, this technology exists in its infant stage today – the demo scarcely worked and, in a complicated environment like that of a film set, it would be far too unreliable due to the current dimness of the projections. 

In post-production, one technology keeps being referenced – machine learning. One concept called AuVive, part of the Immersive Media Challenge at the Entertainment Technology Center at USC, theorizes a system in which machine learning can scan a video and produce an auditory description for those with impaired vision. While the concept sounds like the work of science fiction, many aspects of the technology already exist today, most notably with Adobe VoCo that can synthesize human speech from very small samples.

As the boom of technology continues to amaze and dazzle, one must remember that each new advancement does not mean revolutionary change. While virtual reality has created a whole new sector of the entertainment industry, its capability in storytelling remains limited. Augmented reality exists in mere infancy and requires years of development to be anything close to usable for individuals. While the Infinity Festival may have presented the newest hallmarks in the entertainment industry, it also shows just how much more development is needed before these new advances surpass their status as exciting gimmicks.

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