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NFB and Stan Douglas Create Immersive, Interactive Storyworld CIRCA 1948

Related: Circa 1948, NFB, Stan Douglas
NFB and Stan Douglas Create Immersive, Interactive Storyworld CIRCA 1948

Starting today, users can step into the shadows of the postwar era through Circa 1948, a groundbreaking and immersive interactive storyworld co-created by the National Film Board of Canada's award-winning Digital Studio in Vancouver and internationally acclaimed artist Stan Douglas. This expansive artistic universe premieres worldwide in three interactive formats: a 3D art app for iPad and iPhone, online, and a live event--a projection-mapped immersive installation that will be featured in the Storyscapes section of New York City's Tribeca Film Festival.

If the purpose of art is to reflect the unique social concerns and structures of its era, then the experimental nature of Circa 1948 can be seen as a daring attempt to evolve a new visual and narrative language. The project makes use of emerging technologies to offer multiple entry points into an imagined world, in keeping with the shifting media-consumption habits that inform our contemporary day-to-day reality.

Produced by the NFB, Circa 1948 is one of only five projects selected from around the world for the Tribeca Film Festival's second annual Storyscapes program, created in collaboration with BOMBAY SAPPHIRE(r) Gin, and is eligible for the prestigious BOMBAY SAPPHIRE Award for Transmedia. This multi-platform transmedia program recognizes interactive, web-based or cross-platform approaches to story creation. The public is invited to live the Circa 1948 experience from April 23 to 26 at the Bombay Sapphire House of Imagination at 121 Varick Street in Soho. The public may register to attend at Tribecafilm.com/storyscapes.com.

The Circa 1948 Storyworld Components

An iOS app - Through photorealistic 3D illustrations based on Stan Douglas's extensive historical research, the Circa 1948 app takes audiences on a narrative journey of discovery through two vibrant communities struggling in a time of unforgiving change. Users will encounter conversations between the ghosts of postwar Vancouver, BC, a rain-soaked city divided along lines of race and income, and a place where "urban renewal" is claiming its first victims. This expansive artistic universe asks its audience members to put aside their traditional notions of linear narrative in favour of a deliberate, self-guided technique that yields a more nuanced picture of the world. Here, users can choose to enter one of two carefully recreated locations: an old hotel in Vancouver's affluent West Side, then squatted by homeless war veterans, or the muddy streets of ethnically diverse Hogan's Alley in the working-class East Side, populated by racial minorities, gamblers, prostitutes and corrupt police officers.

By pushing the limits of 3D rendering on the tablet, using binaural sound with touch and gyroscope-driven navigation modes, and running it all on an independent, Canadian-made, open-source rendering engine to control what is essentially an art experience, it's safe to say that Circa 1948 distinguishes itself as a truly groundbreaking work.

A website documenting how the story begins - The site creates an entry point to the project and serves as a primer
to a unique storytelling experience of gentrification and power in postwar Vancouver, providing background info about the project's places and characters.

An interactive projection-mapped installation and live event at the Tribeca Film Festival - While the app and web components are a viewport to the past, the interactive projection-mapped installation celebrating Circa 1948's
world premiere allows Storyscapes audiences to literally step into the past and experience this immersive virtual reality on a larger scale. The users' bodies become the interface that interacts with the storyworld, which then responds to them in real time. The installation highlights key historical locations and stories, breaking down the barriers between art, technology and experience. The live launch event will feature Stan Douglas and members of the NFB team unveiling the work.

Circa 1948 takes Stan Douglas's historically based recombinant storytelling into the interactive world. By combining digital 3D models, a real-time 3D engine and gyroscope-driven navigation, Douglas and co-creator Loc Dao (Executive Producer/Creative Technologist for the NFB) have managed to simplify the interface to such an extent that the experience comes close to being transparent and immersive. Other key NFB team members include producers Selwyn Jacob and Dana Dansereau and project director Kelly Richard Fennig.

Circa 1948 for iPad and iPhone is available free from the iTunes App Store.

The artist's momentous choice to use gaming technology for his latest piece results in "an incredible mixture of artistry and technical innovation," according to NFB Executive Producer and project co-creator Loc Dao.

"Art is good for two things. One is to let you see things that you thought you understood in a different way. The other is to give you an experience you can't have any other way," says Stan Douglas.

About the NFB: The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world's leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory
experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 7 Webbys. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.

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