Many of the most horrific aspects of humanity are being lost to time; and the greatest risk to one and all, and particularly our future, is that we’re losing the opportunity to really learn from our past. Historians, authors, podcasters, and film makers are racing at preserving the stories of our past, but the written word, or even a film as realistic as possible, falls short of truly passing on the emotions, and horrors, of the worst of us.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”George Harrison
Increasingly, that past, those experiences, can nearly be relived.
Where Virtual and Augmented Reality Touches our Lives
Austin, Texas, is home for just another few days, to the most moving and immersive experiences I’ve witnessed. Following a world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the MWM Interactive Production, War Remains, chose Austin as its first home for an immersive experience with WWI.
Through the experience, podcast legend Dan Carlin, of Hardcore History, uses the power of virtual reality to transport audiences, in the closest approximation of a time machine possible, into one of the most extreme battlefields in history — The Western Front of the First World War.
In War Remains, viewers enter a detailed physical set overlaid with a virtual environment that lets them literally reach out and touch the hellish landscape.
As educational as it is exhilarating, the piece blends Dan Carlin’s classic narrative style with moments of unfettered combat to bring viewers closer to history than ever before. Even after exiting the immersive simulation and returning to the present day, audiences are left with the realization that, more than 100 years later, this war has yet to release its grip on the world.
Directed by Brandon Oldenburg, and produced by MWM Interactive with development by Flight School Studio and audio design by Skywalker Sound, Austin is likely the ideal launch for the more publicly accessible experience because it’s in Austin where a creative class of artists are colliding with technology to bring about a future in media; and it’s here too where close ties to U.S. military makes the experience that much more meaningful to so many who continue to serve today.
“The challenges of this project have almost entirely been a function of making sure we’re getting Dan’s ideas right. The truth about the experience is that it is unlike anything else.”Clint Kisker, President MWM
Erin Reilly, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the University of Texas’ Moody College, introduced us to MWM and Alyssa Walles, their SVP Publishing, was an incredible host to our Head of Production, Dallas Burgess, and myself.
“Empathy through Extreme Experiences”
“This is farther than you’ve ever been able to get before,” Dan Carlin
“Having been in combat, I can say that the experience accomplishes the chaos and uncertainty of war. A brilliant way to showcase those frightening moments to allow people that haven’t been to war to have empathy for the veteran experience.”MediaTech Ventures’ Dallas Burgess
This convergence of media and these innovations that make this possible; along with the incredible creative direction and historical underpinnings of the work of Carlin, MWM, Flight School, and Skywalker Studios, the past becomes meaningful in ways inconceivable otherwise.
Brandon Oldenburg, War Remains’ Director, noted their coining of the work they’re doing, an “Immersive Memory” and I can really think of nothing better to characterize what you’ll experience if you have a chance to visit War Remains. While running in Austin only through October 20th, and with tickets practically impossible to come by, hopes are high and partners are working and supporting seeing this experience find both a permanent home and the opportunity to bring it to you.
“What I really like about it is, based on the encouragement from Dan, we really were able to push it,” Jen Cadic, Head of Production for Flight School Studio. “VR can be very game-y, it can very stylized, which is something we love to do, but this really pushed our boundaries of creating something photo-real, having Skywalker here, and having MWM here, actually walking through the experience and touching the walls, and seeing it in the headset and having the headphones on, it’s really the only way to experience it. I really do hope that everyone thinks it’s one of the best things they’ve seen in VR.”
“Working with Dan there is a level of realism he wants to bring to the project. He asked us to create an uncomfortable place but with these VR projects, people come in and they expect it to sound like a movie, they expect it to sound like a video game, and they expect it to sound like real life, and I think if you want to meet the expectations of your audience, it has to be all three.”Bill Rudolph, Skywalker Sound
Burgess shared with me one more thought that might most capture our hope for this future and enthusiasm for what it can mean for everyone, “This is an important way to preserve history and an unparalleled approach at using media technology to present it. This is the future of history class.”
Keep innovating, keep creative, and let’s keep memories alive with immersive media.
War Remains continues in Austin through October 20th.
Grab tickets if available, here.