50 Creatives to Help Build UK-Wide XR Storytelling Project

The UK has a strong history in the XR space, with several new projects appearing at SXSW this week. Today, StoryFutures Academy in collaboration with several other organisations has announced plans to deliver an immersive storytelling experience called StoryTrails. Created by 50 artists, it’ll appear across various UK cities later this year.

nexus AR Mobile

As part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK – an initiative celebrating the country’s creativity – StoryTrails will use augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in a bid to bring intriguing stories from the past to life. 15 public spaces will be reanimated thanks to the work of 50 creatives, the BFI (British Film Institute), the BBC, Niantic Labs, Nexus Studios, and ISO Design.

Those 50 roles will be split down into several projects, with 17 making story trails for city centres whilst another 15 will build immersive installations mapping the geography of a location. Nine will be selected to develop VR experiences whilst nine will take on professional placement at one of the StoryTrails partner organisations. The BFI, for example, will provide unprecedented access to archive material.

“StoryTrails will help to shape the future of the creative industries and pioneer creative storytelling in the 3D internet. This moment, when emerging technologies are finding their form is the same moment the UK’s next generation of creative practitioners are emerging. StoryTrails represents a direct engagement with changing the face of the industry to reflect the diversity of talent across the UK and to use that talent to make the UK a world leader in immersive storytelling,” said Professor David Olusoga, broadcaster and film-maker and Executive Producer of StoryTrails in a statement. “As the UK’s largest immersive storytelling project, StoryTrails will be mapping a course for this amazing set of new technologies that engrains diversity at its heart.”

Lewisham - StoryTrails

“StoryTrails is a wonderful project being developed for UNBOXED, which uses cutting edge immersive technologies to tell new stories about people and places across the UK,” adds Martin Green CBE, Chief Creative Officer UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK. “It’s brilliant that StoryFutures Academy are also recruiting and training 50 creatives from diverse backgrounds to help shape it and expand their skills in immersive technology. In doing so, they are playing a vital role in building a dynamic future workforce for the creative industries in the UK.”

The 15 locations offering free two-day StoryTrails residencies are:

  • Omagh
  • Dundee
  • Dumfries
  • Blackpool
  • Bradford
  • Sheffield
  • Lincoln
  • Wolverhampton
  • Swansea
  • Newport
  • Bristol
  • Swindon
  • Slough
  • London (Lambeth and Lewisham).

If you happen to be in the UK this summer StoryTrails runs from 1st July – 18th September 2022, culminating in a new film to be screened in cinemas as well as being made available via BBC iPlayer. For further updates, keep reading gmw3.

Maze Theory to Train Writers in VR, Offering Peaky Blinders VR Work Opportunity

London, UK-based virtual reality (VR) studio Maze Theory has a couple of big-name projects in the works including Doctor Who: Edge of Time and Peaky Blinders VRThe latter is still in its early stages and so the team has announced a partnership with  StoryFutures Academy, the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling jointly run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London, to train writers in the art of writing for VR, with one being selected to help pen the upcoming Peaky Blinders VR experience.

Peaky Blinders
Image Credit: Peaky Blinders – Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Five participants have been chosen to take part in a two-day writers’ room this past week: Jenna Jovi; Melissa Iqbal; Berri George; Robin Taylor and Catherine Skinner; who all have at least two screen credits or a commissioned script to their name.

Adam Ganz, StoryFutures Academy’s Head of Writers Room led the endeavour, supported by Maze Theory and immersive theatre company, Punchdrunk. Participants learnt the principles of writing for VR as well as seeing Maze Theory’s proprietary AI technology that will make Peaky Blinders VR a unique experience, allowing the characters to respond to player gestures,  movement, voice, sound and body language.

“We are delighted to be working with Maze Theory to help established writers discover the art of writing for VR,” said Ganz in a statement. “Maze Theory are an incredibly innovative company who are really pushing the boundaries of what is possible in immersive and it’s fantastic that they are offering one of our writers’ room participants the opportunity to work on their new Peaky Blinders VR experience. These kinds of collaborations that bring together established film and television industry professionals with VR specialists are vital for the growth of the immersive sector. We need to tell stories together.”

Peaky Blinders

One of the participants will then be able to take the writers room a stage further and given the opportunity to work on the  Peaky Blinders VR experience for up to 10 weeks over the coming months.

Peaky Blinders VR is scheduled for release in 2020. When further details are released VRFocus will let you know.

Winners Announced For The UK Research And Innovation Immersive Content Competition

The National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London, have won a bid to run a new National Centre for Immersive Storytelling following a competition run by UK Research and Innovation. The new £10 million (GBP) centre funded by the government’s Industrial Strategy will develop cutting-edge creative training and research programmers for immersive storytelling to ensure the UK’s creative workforce is the most skilled in the world to use virtual virtual (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies.

The new centre, which will be known as the StoryFutures Academy, will support and co-fund dozens of immersive productions with a focus on storytelling alongside providing experimental labs, workshops, placements and courses. A key element of the £33 million Audience of the Future programmer, part of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the programme aims to pioneer immersive experiences across the industry to raise the UK’s workforce talent level to better compete with the world.

“The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in adopting immersive technology to find new audiences and create ground-breaking content. But to do this we need to develop our creative talent to make the best of this new medium. StoryFutures Academy is a partnership that brings together exceptional researchers, a world-class film school and partners across the industry who will not only support the centre but gain the benefit of its graduates.” Said Andrew Chitty, Audience of the Future Challenge Director, when announcing the winning bidders during a speech at the Raindance Film Festival.

Initially, training will take the form of placements, including boot camp intensive training for established screen industry practitioners, experimental labs, work experience placements and shadowing opportunities. The NFTS and Royal Holloway will then offer five-six short courses available at a range of locations in the UK after a year of learning from experimental labs. The end result will see both institutions launch Masters provision in a range of immersive specialisms. The StoryFutures Academy will also offer paid placements for experts in a range of fields in traditional screen sectors to work with immersive companies and expand their knowledge base.

“From Harry Potter to Downton Abbey, Damien Hirst to Grand Theft Auto, the UK has the most incredible storytellers bringing their art to life for the entire world to enjoy. Immersive technology, such as virtual reality, can transform our traditional creative industries into something even more awe-inspiring for audiences, giving them the feeling of really being there.” Said Science and Innovation Minister, Sam Gyimah: “The new Centre for Immersive Storytelling takes us a step closer to reaching our ambition within the Creative Industries Sector Deal to boost the UK’s place as a world leader in this kind of content by 2025.”

More information on the project and the StoryFutures Academy, including opportunities to get involved, can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website. VRFocus will be sure to bring you all latest on future developments so stay tuned for more.

AMD Challenges The National Film and Television School to Create a Series of VR Projects

Virtual reality (VR) companies are continually challenging content creators to come up with new new experiences to inspire and push the next wave of storytelling. The latest comes from AMD, challenging The National Film and Television School (NTFS) and its students to create a series of VR projects as part of the school’s Bridges to Industry scheme.

Through the project NFTS students will be among some of the first in the UK to use AMD’s new Radeon Pro WX7100 graphic cards, designed (among other things) to drive VR experiences at high visual levels.

AMD students news header pic

AMD is inviting the students and recent alumni to pitch for three projects. These are:

  • An interactive and immersive VR experience for Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headsets, using real-time rendered 3D computer graphics.
  • A 360-degree video project of up to three minutes that entertains and inspires.
  • A topical, short film of up to three minutes on the impact of augmented reality (AR)

Ni Powell, NTFS Director said in a statement: “Filmmakers, television producers and games developers are all exploring the possibilities presented by 360 video, VR and AR as well as the creative and technical challenges in producing something that genuinely makes use of the additional level of viewer interaction. This series of projects set by AMD is a fantastic opportunity for our students and graduates to explore these new technologies and think differently about how a story can be told.”

“We are delighted to support this new initiative to combine our technological expertise with NTFS students’ and graduates’ expertise in storytelling,” commented Roy Taylor, CVP at AMD and Chairman, BAFTA VR Advisory Group. “We believe storytelling is the key to the success of these new technologies which is why it’s so important to work with a prestigious, creative institution like the NFTS. We look forward to seeing the results.”

Once completed, AMD plans to showcase the concepts at events around the world including: FMX; and the International Animation, Effects, VR, Games and Transmedia Conference which takes place in Stuttgart, Germany, from 2nd – 5th May 2017.

For all the latest VR news from AMD, keep reading VRFocus.