VR Events

FIVARS Festival of Virtual Reality Stories Celebrates 5th Anniversary

A Festival Powered by VR

“5 years in VR, is like dog years,” says FIVARS festival founder Keram Malicki-Sanchez, not a trace of irony in his expression. The international festival of virtual and augmented reality stories he launched in 2015 has run every year against the Toronto International Film Festival – the world’s largest film festival.

Why run a tiny independent festival for a fledgling technology against the sprawling red carpets, Oscar-winning celebs and paparazzi?

“FIVARS is designed to showcase the finest new immersive content from around the world, and I loved how TIFF had exposed me to so many films I would never see anywhere else – the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I wanted to bring that to the foreground for immersive media and keep it there. Culture is at the centre of our show.”

FIVARS has always been heavily focused on UX for audiences, using Cleanbox machines to sterilize headsets, using their RipTix system invented by Joseph Ellsworth, to manage queue times, and privacy and discretion while maintaining the fun of social experience in the way that the layout of the event is setup. After five years the festival has learned a lot of lessons and tricks.

In year 5, the show features over 35 pieces from over 12 countries.

Adventures in Six Degrees of Freedom

Some highlights include “Memoria: Stories of La Garma” – a powerful 6DoF experience from the Rafael Pavon about early cave dwellers and the rich culture they left behind through artefacts, paintings and bones. Rafael Pavon started as creative director at the legendary studio Future Lighthouse where he worked in projects like Ray, Melita, Campfire Creepers and Snatch VR. In 2018, he leads the creative department at the Disney-backed immersive studio Jaunt and then became creative director at the award-winning studio AtlasV.


The show also features “Deep Connection” by Marilene Oliver – an incredibly ambitious experience featuring coroplast sculptures with body sensors and laser scanners that enable you to experience full-body MRI scans. Users can walk around the life-sized body, and real-life motion-tracked sculptures, dive inside it to see its inner workings, as well as ‘animate’ the body by holding its hand to make the heartbeat and lungs breathe.

Deep Connection VR experience by Marilene Oliver
Deep Connection VR experience by Marilene Oliver

Screensavers” from Ben Vance/FLOAT lets you dive into the world of 1980’s screensavers in VR. I mean…how can it get any cooler than that? “What began as a utilitarian application became less of a tool to keep static pixels from burning the screens of CRT’s and more a canvas for us to project our imaginations. Stop staring at your screen—dive in and save virtual reality!”

These and many more wonders await.

FIVARS runs its 5th annual festival in Toronto September 13th-15th at the Toronto Media Arts Centre – learn more at

Full disclosure: this blog is owned by Constant Change Media Group, Inc. who also operates the FIVARS festival.

HTC Vive VR Events

‘The Key’ VIVE Experience Premieres at FIVARS Festival of VR & AR Stories

The Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories (phew), also known as the much easier to say “FIVARS” returns for its second year to its native Toronto, Ontario, smack dab in the middle of Toronto International Film Festival hubbub.

The three-day virtual reality and augmented reality festival is not limited to merely 360 degree immersive videos (of which it is showcase the largest collection in the world with over 30 official selections in 2016 including the world premieres of Lilian Mehrel‘s “Invisible,” Michealla Vu‘s glitch-art inspired “Neural Path” and others) but also includes an audio-only virtual reality audio chamber designed by David McKevy and Cinehackers‘ experimental experience for the HTC Vive “The Key.”

Cinehackers is the VR label for the work of director/producer Elli Raynai, best known in VR-land for his groundbreaking Oculus short story “I Am You.” In an interview with RoomScalist, he explained the design thinking behind the creation of his latest work:

“The Key is a narrative cinematic VR experience that allows the viewer to inhabit the perspective of the protagonist in order to explore a traumatic memory in their past. Through the narrative the viewer not only has ability to observer the memory, but must follow an alternative path that fundamentally changes what happened and as a result brings the protagonist to a healing moment.”

The experience is a blend of elements – using photogrammetry to build environments and Depthkit to capture real performances that are then composited in the experience, which fundamentally results in a uniquely styled interactive narrative. Raynai went to Berlin where he spent a month putting his ambitious idea together on an independent budget and sheer force of will. He returned to Toronto in September where he presented the production process to the Toronto VR community.

“This was the first time I attempted a room scale experience for the VIVE and it was very challenging,” Raynai says. “I’m talking specifically about how you tailor the story, which interactive elements feel intuitive to the viewer, but also not very obvious. I almost made the experience very fast, so, a lot of the feedback I get will influence the way I make narrative experiences in the future. This is the importance of demoing your experience and watching closely how your users react.”

The experience will be available to all festival wristband carriers, as opposed to the timed programme, so that a discussion may form about the new design concepts presented in Raynai’s evolving work.

“FIVARS is about experimentation and novel mechanics,” says FIVARS festival director Keram Malicki-Sanchez. “The Key represents the FIVARS mission to explore new possibilities and push the various technologies to their current limits in search of new forms for storytelling.”

The Key makes its public exhibition world premiere at FIVARS September 16-18th 2016 in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

For more information visit the official FIVARS site.