A JUNGE RÖMER PRODUCTION
Escape Velocity is a VR experience that puts the audience into them inds of four refugees that were forced to leave their respective home countries and have since relocated to Vienna, Austria. The audience gets to experience their very personal stories from the viewpoint of the main protagonist - filmed in stereoscopic 360 ° video and presented in VR.
Many people perceive the refugees coming to Europe as one nameless, faceless mob that threatens their social security and way of living. We want to help change that perception by letting our audience experience life from the perspective of four individuals who are just as relatable, complex and “real” as anyone else. They do have names. They do have faces. And they have all kind sof interesting stories to tell.
Virtual Reality has often been called an empathy machine - and rightly so. We strongly believe VR is the perfect medium for what we are trying to achieve. VR headsets literally wrap the story all around you and let you see the world through someone else’s eyes - until you get fully absorbed and you forget they are someone else’s. You become them. And this moment is the perfect opportunity for storytellers to create maximum impact.
The project is funded by Wirtschaftsagentur Wien.
Each of the four stories, or “episodes”, will be self-contained and accessible from an interactive main hub. A story will take about three to five minutes. Tonally and stylistically the stories will be very different, as each one is directed by a different director with a very specific approach to the medium of VR and storytelling in general.
Junge Römer serves as production company, providing the technical equipment and staff (DOP, editor, sound and light engineers, etc) while giving creative freedom to the refugees and the directors who work with them to tell their stories. Shooting will take place in Q4 2017. We plan to release the project to the general public, in the form of an app for VR devices like the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR, in Q1 2018.
Jihad Al-Khatib (29) is an actor who fled from Palestine to Austria in 2005. Often, he is called “Marcello” because he looks like the Brazilian soccer player. But he prefers his real name - even if it is not a particularly easy name to carry. His story is directed by Florian Binder.
Baharak (8) is a young girl who fled from Iran with her parents. While her German is already pretty good, her parents only speak and understand a tiny bit of the language. So Baharak always must translate for her parents, in all kinds of situations. Her story is directed by screenwriter and dramatic adviser Amirabbas Gudarzi, who himself was forced to leave Iran in 2009.
Emran Tanha Musafer (19) came from Afghanistan to Austria in October 2015. He stayed in Vienna, because there are no bombs exploding here. How does his new life between Austria and Afghanistan look like? His story is directed by Hannah Greber.
Compared to the other stories featured in Escape Velocity, this, at first glance, appears to be the odd one out. Thomas Seifert, vice editor-in-chief of “Wiener Zeitung”, chooses a documentary-style approach for his segment. He will visit a refugee camp in Greece or Lebanon (we’re in talk with NGOs in both locations), filming a portrait of a person who has not yet arrived somewhere she/he could consider a new home.
At the beginning of each story, the spectator (the person wearing the VR headset) finds him/herself in front of a mirror. But the reflection looking back will be completely new to her/him. While hearing the voice of the story’s protagonist (like an inner monologue), the spectator also sees the protagonist’s image in the mirror - and it behaves realistically, moving the head and shoulders according to the spectator’s movements, in perfect synchronisation.
An illusion like this is only possible in VR. It serves to literally transport the spectator into another body, into another mind. The audience not only looks at our protagonists, it becomes them.
We achieve this effect by creating photorealistic 3D models of our main protagonists (by means of photogrammetry) and animating them in real-time according to the movements of the spectator.
As mentioned before, all the stories will be shot in stereoscopic 3D. We believe that when it comes to 360 ° videos, the 3D effect makes all the difference. Reality isn’t “flat”, so the virtual reality shouldn’t be either. We will shoot the stories with the NOKIA OZO, at the time of this writing the most professional and advanced 360 ° 3D video and audio capture device available.
Some scenes featured in Escape Velocity will be augmented with CGI special effects. The NOKIA OZO gives us the ability to export depth maps from the videos, which makes it easier to combine the real footage with the CGI.
All stories will be available in three languages: English, German and the protagonist’s mother tongue. The audience will be able to select their preferred language via a menu in the main hub.
Development of the app is being done with UNITY 2017. This makes it possible to create future versions for different and/or upcoming VR headsets like the HTC Vive, Google Daydream Devices or Windows Mixed Reality.
The project is funded by Wirtschaftsagentur Wien.