Turning Forest VR Installation at Tribeca for BBC R&D

How do you stand out amongst 50 virtual reality experiences jostling for attention in a crowded , noisy, shiny modern gallery. This was our challenge when we showcased a BBC R & D/VRTOV Virtual Reality experience at Storyscapes, the Tribeca Film Festival’s VR fest. Our task was to – almost instanteously – transport visitors to a world of fantasy forests that would trigger memories of childhood adventure. And to create a near sound-proofed space in which they could let their imaginations fly and become fully immersed in our VR story.

For this was one thrilling VR story. Written by Shelley Silas with binaural sound design from Eloise Whitmore and Chris Pike and VR from internationally-renowned VR artist, Oscar Raby, the Turning Forest took the audience on a journey through a magical wood – home to a friendly monster, with musical teeth, that you play by reaching out and plucking them.

After several iterations and phone and internet bashing to wring out the best deals, we ended up with a beautiful bivouac-style tent. On to a strong domestic pergola we draped acoustic blankets and topped them with yards of autumnal camouflage netting with red, ochre and brown leaves intertwined. Inside there was a carpet of fake grass and small grassy swivel stools to sit on. With smells of the forest – created by the BBC’s Zillah Watson’s children – it was an almost fully sensory experience. Vibrating backpacks tuned to the pitch of the monster’s movements took the audience one step closer to total sensory immersion.

And it worked. And the audience left with that wide-eyed stares of awe we’d hoped for.