VFXRio Live: Active Presence
The hero in our story goes on a journey of self-discovery through various phases until he meets himself and arrives at VFXRio. Inspired by Moebius and Joseph Campbell, Rodrigo Hurtado founder of XCAVE Studio and Matteo Moriconi Director of VFXRio created an original video with Unreal Engine technology. The film presents the soundtrack of Marcelo Baldin from Wolfgang.
MANIFESTO: ACTIVE PRESENCE
If we take a moment from our busy lives, laden with screens and disembodied voices that remind us of appointments and instruct us to breathe, perhaps we might ask: what is the purpose of all this technology? We could argue that technology is the answer to and the result of a search to solve our most basic problems. When humans first lit the darkest nights by harnessing fire, when they shaped flint into spearheads, they were thinking of their basic needs as they solved problems that challenged their survival. Because at first, it was all about survival and as early humans wandered the wilderness, hunting and gathering, they did not see themselves as very different or separate from the world they lived in. Their concept of Being included rivers, mountains, the stars, the animals, and the world they inhabited, which, in turn, inhabited them- it was part of their consciousness. It is a complex notion for us, now, in the age of the selfie, in the age of "i" technologies.
Technological advances inhabit the overarching concept of progress, an ambiguous word that can elicit excitement as well as regret. Sometimes as both, as progress' march has often been portrayed as relentless and inevitable. Dickens' descriptions of the first steam locomotives that began to line the English countryside could very well be a metaphor for the unbridled ambition manifest as progress: "The power that forced itself upon its iron way - its own - defiant of all paths and roads, piercing through the heart of every obstacle, and dragging living creatures of all classes, ages, and degrees behind it, was a type of the triumphant monster, Death." Yet, as maligned as technology and the progress it sparks have been, is it fair to see them only through the prism of destruction? Or is it a reflection? Is it perhaps more like an instrument, like a mirror, upon which our very essence is reflected, for better or for worse?
It wasn't until the 1500s that mirrors became more accessible, thanks to the discovery of glass-coating (with a tin-mercury amalgam) techniques. While the critics of these readily available mirrors were plentiful, the reality is that humans were confronted with their images, themselves, in unprecedented ways. Reflections of the self expanded to reflections of perspectives. Reality and perception collided, becoming intrinsic to an exploratory dialogue on the self. The expression "smoke and mirrors", a nod to the technological ingenuity of the magic shows of yore, is a nod to the manipulation of reality and leads to all kinds of lines of inquiry, some even poetic, created by both artists and engineers: they create illusions that nevertheless convey...truths.
The magic of innovation is balanced among three pillars: technology, psychology, and storytelling. The burden of creating a truthful illusion lies among its creators, and the technology they must master...and always push forward. This technological and creative acceleration is happening today with AR/XR and immersive technologies. The demand of a specialized workforce to develop these immersive technologies grew in 2019 at the incredible rate of 1400%. Just like crystal mirrors flooded European markets during the Renaissance, immersive technologies are starting to become more accessible. We can marvel at the new conscience that will emerge as a result of this.
Technology has led to the collective pursuit of mapping out a new humanoid: AI replicates the human mind, but with faster and more powerful problem-solving abilities. Computer graphics are able to break the barriers of the "uncanny valley", and wireless communication, both synchronous and asynchronous, connects people, who in turn are connected to servers throughout the world through the use of their devices. The rapid rate at which we are digitizing our world, down to the microscopic level, will undoubtedly culminate in the creation of new worlds, beyond what we can imagine now. Instead of finding our own image behind the glass of a mirror, we will be able to see any colour, any shape, anywhere. We will perceive more than ourselves...and perhaps imagine ourselves beyond the limits of our physical constraints.The immersive universe operates on a different scale of space and time and time, as we understand it today, will be different in a near future. As we all grow more and more interconnected through technology, there will be many possible times in a finite space.
We must ask ourselves the following question: Who will have access to these advances?
The risk of not contemplating questions like this is that these technological advances can fragment our world further. We can argue that we have currently reached a crossroads of sorts where we must decide how these tools will be implemented and to what purpose. It is our responsibility to see that new technologies, as they become more and more enmeshed not only in our lives, but in our bodies as well, become part of a more humanizing narrative. Now, as we grapple with a world pandemic and witness civil unrest in so many societies across the world, we are in a unique place to assess the virtues and flaws of our technologies and engage in the soul-searching work that calls for more education and democratization of our technologies.
It is amazing to think of the impact and repercussions, social and economic, of technologies, even beyond the Internet, TV, and even radio. As new paradigms emerge, it is clear that VR/XR is breaking new ground. VR, for example, has a greater role than merely offering entertainment; it can assist scientists create models, supporting medical advances, and simulate environments that engineers aspire to access. It is because of these technologies that creative teams are able to collaborate remotely, create new universes, and expand the ways that narratives are developed in an entirely immersive experience. It makes the fanciful or what may have seemed flighty and impossible a reality. The image of VFX Rio's logo is a testament of that. As the Sugar Loaf's cableway was being erected, defying such vertiginous heights, onlookers watched in disbelief that such a feat could be accomplished. Now, the cable cars, a testament to the resourcefulness, creativity, and vision of its engineers and builders, is one of Rio de Janeiro's most iconic images, intrinsic to the city's identity and appreciating its character and spirit. Let us ensure that technology evolves like that: a reflection of all the good we possess and to which we aspire.
President of the Brazilian Association
of Visual Technology
VFXRio Live: www.vfxrio.com.br
Acknowledgements: The Manifesto - Active Presence is the result of ongoing and intense exchange of ideas with VFXRio Collaborators:
Alison MacAdams, Liana Brazil and Luiz Velho.