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VR and live performance project awarded £350,000

Winning backing: The University’s film Fatherland being shot CREDIT: Benjamin Graham

The University of Portsmouth has been awarded funding for a major pioneering project to help advance cultural industries nationally.

Digital Catapult and Arts Council England have announced that the University’s film Fatherland is one of five virtual reality and augmented reality projects that will receive £350,000 as part of the CreativeXR programme.

Fatherland uses virtual reality in a live theatrical performance to provide a greater understanding of father and son relationships. During the performance audience members interact live with the performers and avatars as the story unravels.

Fatherland uses real-time motion capture and VR technology and brings to life the journey of a father and son coming to terms with dementia and disembodiment in a modern world.

Digital Catapult and Arts Council England launched the CreativeXR initiative in January, with a first round in which 20 teams developed prototypes. The latest round of investment, alongside match funding and support from a range of creative technology and cultural organisations, will enable the Portsmouth team to further develop their project and take it public.

Fatherland has been developed by a team from the University’s faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries – Alex Counsell (faculty technical adviser in the School of Creative Technologies), Adam Cleaver (third year computer games student), Marc Cook (alumni and current research assistant on PONToon), and Laura Doye (lecturer in the School of Media and Performing Arts and executive producer of Fatherland), in partnership with Ben Samuels and Juan Ayala from Limbik Theatre, and West End theatre writer Greg Mosse.

Fatherland, the virtual reality film project in the faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries is at the forefront of emerging technologies

Laura said: “We have been able to respond to the government paper, ‘Culture is digital’ published in March and that and show how the theatre world responds. People working in arts and others in technology have collaborated, found common languages and produced an amalgamation of motion capture and live performance.

Fatherland has also enabled the University to build contacts within the cultural industries, helping to gain recognition from leading organisations in the sector.

“We look forward to the next stage of development.”

Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult, said: “Applicants to CreativeXR presented us with an incredible level of creativity and innovation, so narrowing these down to a final five was no easy task.

“It’s imperative that these projects receive proper funding and support, or we risk them failing to reach fruition and the benefits to the UK’s creative sector being lost. Digital Catapult and Arts Council England are fulfilling this critical role and we’re truly excited to see how each of these develops now they have the resource required to take them to the next level.”

Francis Runacres, executive director of enterprise and innovation at Arts Council England, said: “We’re thrilled to see the cross-sector partnership between ourselves and Digital Catapult come to fruition through five final projects. Each of the five organisations are developing cutting edge, immersive content, and are illustrating what the UK can contribute to this growing global market. In time, we look forward to audiences enjoying the immersive experiences that they are creating; connecting with art, history and culture in ground-breaking new ways.”

Watch the trailer for Fatherland here.

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