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FIVARS 2023: Spotlight on Granville and Georgia: 150 Years in VR

Director Headshot Brian WaltersGranville and Georgia: 150 Years in VR allows the viewer to watch the evolution of this famous intersection in Vancouver, starting with the Old Growth Forest all the way to today’s city of glass. FIVARS had the chance to speak with Director Brian Walters.

What led to the creation of this piece?

I work at Sony Pictures Imageworks, which is located at this intersection in downtown Vancouver. When I first saw a photo of the building that once stood where I was currently standing, the 2nd Hotel Vancouver, with its Italian Renaissance architecture, I knew I needed to build it in 3D. Why? I don’t have a clue lol… Well, I didn’t stop there. Soon (ish) I had modeled all of 1930s Vancouver within eye sight of the intersection. An animation I put together with it got some positive responses and press, so I decided to keep going until it turned into this VR film.

I am part of the Vancouver Nostalgia page on Facebook and saw many comments along the lines of “I wish I could see that old building one last time with my own eyes.” I realized I could give that to them with this film.

What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

Team? No team, just me lol… an enormous amount of time was spent scouring the Vancouver City archives for any photo from any time that shows any building within sight of this intersection. Then using the photos as reference, I would model each individual building. Photos in the public domain were used to help create the texture maps. Many buildings, such as Hudson’s Bay, needed multiple versions, as they were updated through time. Any building that currently exists is based on my own photo reference.

As for the original score, that was written by the incredible Shie Rozow, and I am thankful every day that he wanted to be a part of this film.

Dennis Thomas Whonoaks

How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

I guess you could say that I created my first immersive content around 2008-2009, when I created 3, 5-minute motion simulator rides.

You know, the type where the seats would move to the action on the screen. Flash forward a dozen years when I have my first vr headset and I started running tests to see what those rides would look like in the googles (not good lol). Then it occurred to me to try a test of my 1930s Vancouver environment in the headset and it was amazing! I was instantly hooked on the idea of standing in the middle of history.

What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

I’m in Vancouver, so I have to imagine it’s pretty strong, but I’ve largely stayed in a bubble for this project so I wouldn’t know.

I built the backdrop for the Jimmy Kimmel show

What do you have planned for the future?

I’m starting on my 24th film at Sony Imageworks, where I’m pretty much living the dream. As for this film, I just want as many people to see it as possible, and still trying to figure out how to make that happen.

As for the future, I wrote 2 children’s books that I would love to put out into the world. Both are for the preschool crowd. One is as if Dr Suess teamed up with Eminem to teach the alphabet, the other is like ‘Brown Bear’ for a new, diverse generation.

What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?

Never give up. Good work takes time, so put in the time.

Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

Absolutely. Especially since most people don’t have VR headsets, this is one way to promote the artform and show people what can be.

Granville and Georgia: 150 Years in VR at FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.

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