Cannes Lions

Lessons of Auschwitz: VR tribute by school students

RT CREATIVE LAB, Moscow / RT / 2020

Presentation Image
Demo Film
Supporting Content

Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

The Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and its endless barracks in ruins, remain one of the world’s most painful memorial sites and serve as a living reminder of what evil can look like.

But as time passes, so do the Holocaust survivors - the voices of those who remember the atrocities are falling silent. The commemorative link between generations is dimming. Today, in a mostly digital world, it is important to restore the gap and keep younger generations interested in learning history.

To visit Auschwitz is a deep rite of passage. To mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation we brought nine students from a Moscow high school - between 13 and 16 years old - to the Memorial in Poland to personally undergo this experience. After the trip, we asked them to express their reactions in VR under the creative guidance of Russia’s leading XR artist, Denis Semionov.

Idea

The Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and its endless barracks in ruins, remain one of the world’s most painful memorial sites and serve as a living reminder of what evil can look like.

But as time passes, so do the Holocaust survivors - the voices of those who remember the atrocities are falling silent. The commemorative link between generations is dimming. Today, in a mostly digital world, it is important to restore the gap and keep younger generations interested in learning history.

To visit Auschwitz is a deep rite of passage. To mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation we brought nine students from a Moscow high school - between 13 and 16 years old - to the Memorial in Poland to personally undergo this experience. After the trip, we asked them to express their reactions in VR under the creative guidance of Russia’s leading XR artist, Denis Semionov.

Strategy

The innovation behind “Lessons of Auschwitz” lies in merging the young artists’ virtual avatars with their VR illustrations in a joint space. For that we used Unity program which helped us transfer volumetric video and animations, which we would then alter and process with special shader effects. It was the first-ever case uniting virtual illustration, volumetric capture and theremin in one project.

"Lessons of Auschwitz" is part of #VictoryPages project - a versatile social media documentary commemorating the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The digital, multi-platform, educational project assesses the historical magnitude of May 9th, 1945 through personal impressions of contemporaries and from the fresh perspective of digital art and creativity. It is a story of Victory told by the young, for the young, using the tools and language of modern media over five social networks.

Execution

“Lessons of Auschwitz” is a social experiment that aims to show how history can be retold and reimagined by younger generations through digital art. Using innovative XR film technology we aimed to create a new kind of commemorative tribute which will engage and touch younger viewers and inspire them to learn more about the Holocaust.

A comprehensive multi-stage six-month production lies behind the creation of this unique XR experience. In stage one, we decided to teach 9 school students, who would eventually go to Poland and become prime-creators of this tribute, some historical background. Thanks to the Moscow Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, the students learned about the Holocaust during a private tour.

We also teamed up with composer Peter Theremin, who plays the world's oldest electronic instrument patented by his great grandfather, Léon Theremin, which is controlled without physical contact by the performer. Peter composed an original score for the film - an eerie lament in which the sonorous vibrations of the theremin create a weeping effect and a striking tune.

The students used Tilt Brush to draw their 3D images and were filmed with volumetric video - a technique capturing three-dimensional space, allowing the images to be transformed directly into 3D where they would later react to sound waves.

The innovation behind “Lessons of Auschwitz” lies in merging the young artists’ virtual avatars with their VR illustrations in a joint space. For that we used Unity program which helped us transfer volumetric video and animations, which we would then alter and process with special shader effects. It was the first-ever case uniting virtual illustration, volumetric capture and theremin in one project.

Outcome

The innovative approach paid off with project getting over 150,000 views during Holocaust Remembrance week and 10 million impressions on social media and online platforms. "Lessons of Auschwitz" was welcomed with positive reviews praising fresh digital approach and moving artworks by teen artists which commemorate victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The film became an official selection for Volumetric Market at Vancouver International Film festival, a finalist at SXSW Virtual Noise showcase and has been recognised by VR Awards for Social Impact. The film has also received "Internet's highest honor" accolades at The Webbys and The Lovies in 2020.

Also thanks to this VR tribute, #VictoryPages project in general gathered more than 35 million impressions, 250,000 engagements, over 50,000 followers, 4,000,000 video views (800,000 minutes of watch time) and over 200 publications in media.

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