Daniel Bury is one of the youngest & most up and coming creators in the world of VR film-making, travelling the world to create immersive experiences through unique 360 and VR storytelling. Daniel will be joining us at #DTTTCampus to host a hands-on workshop working with a team of DMOs to explore how 360 content can really deliver great results, leading the storytelling approach starting with ultra-immersive right up to thumb-stopping social. We caught up with him to talk everything from his background to inspiration and career highlights.
1. Please introduce yourself and your work.
My name is Daniel Bury, and I'm a filmmaker and world traveller who specialises in combining emerging technology with traditional video production to craft immersive experiences with high social reach. My favourite projects are when I empower local and indigenous communities to use cutting-edge technology to share their stories and culture.
2. Could you tell us a bit more about your background and your journey to where you are today?
When I began working with virtual reality and 360-degree video in early 2015, I was blown away by the potential of this new, exciting medium. I began working on branded virtual reality experiences for clients such as Samsung at Rapid VR in Sydney. Then, in 2016 I took things a step further when I pioneered narrative documentaries by combining virtual adventure tourism with powerful human stories. I directed six VR experiences in Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Peru, Brazil and Morocco for my VR series Chasing the World.
In addition to branded virtual reality and augmented reality tourism, my mission is to bring cutting-edge technology to under-represented and indigenous communities around the world so they can utilise new tech to share their stories and broadcast important messages about the environment, culture, spirituality and wisdom.
3. What has been your favourite project to date?
The most special project that I worked on recently was Yawarani, supported by Google, OutsideTV and Adventure Film Festival, and inspired by the VR film Awavena. The film was produced by Adam Newman and Júlia Tainá Maia.
Yawarani is a VR180 film created in collaboration with an indigenous community deep in the Amazon rainforest to preserve their sacred culture and the wisdom of their elders.
Throughout the creation of the piece, we hosted workshops in Yawarani to teach indigenous creators all stages of the VR and film production process, including the screenwriting, camera operation, scene design, post-production and editing. The end result is a virtual reality film made by indigenous creators to preserve and share their culture. Shaneihu Yawanawa, Roque Yawanawa, Nani Yawanawa and Fátima Yawanawa were the indigenous producers on the project.
Yawarani: A VR Film Made with Indigenous Creators
Yawarani Behind the Scenes (IGTV)
4. Please can you tell us a bit more about 'Chasing the World?
I began pioneering my VR travel series Chasing the World at a very early time for virtual reality in 2015. I put together my own camera rigs at a time when VR video was in its infancy and I set out on a year-long journey around the world -- and I captured it in virtual reality.
In Myanmar, I met a monk on the train named U Kyi Thaw. A few days earlier, I had filmed a hot air balloon ride over the ancient temples of Bagan in virtual reality. Every day, a cluster of hot air balloons float across the sky above the locals. They are reserved for tourists who pay a lot of money, and locals never expect to experience the wonder of the hot air balloons for themselves. When U Kyi Thaw hesitantly put on the VR goggles, he was in awe as he looked down at familiar villages and people from the sky. Afterwards, U Kyi Thaw invited me to travel around the country with him. He guided me around the country, enlisted monk friends to assist me with my cameras, escorted me to secret underground poetry readings, and opened up to me about his personal story in which he and his wife were imprisoned by the military dictatorship in the 90s for reciting poetry.
In every proceeding country, I continued to share my VR footage with wide-eyed locals, and it’s the main reason why I was given access to such unbelievable travel experiences to film in VR. In Nepal, a friend I met on the bus named Hari Roka negotiated with a cargo plane to take us high in the Himalayas and then eventually to his family’s home in the earthquake epicentre Gorkha.
At the end of a year of filming around the world, I completed six VR documentaries for my series Chasing the World, several of which have screened in the virtual reality selection of many festivals and exhibitions, including Cannes.
5. What is your biggest career highlight?
My biggest highlight has happened quite recently with our VR film Yawarani. In terms of my career, I aspire to use VR technology to make a positive difference to the world and our environment, and this project was in pursuance of that goal. It has been so rewarding to collaborate with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon who serve as the guardians of the rainforest. The process of teaching such an advanced technology to the indigenous community was incredible. In the future, I think the people in Yawarani will continue to use virtual reality to broadcast their important messages of sustainability, indigenous wisdom and spirituality during this incredibly difficult time when the Amazon rainforest is in so much danger.
6. What do you enjoy most about VR?
At the birth of film as an art form in the early 1900s, Italian film theoretician Ricciotto Canudo famously labelled film as the "seventh art" because it is a combination of ancient arts of Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Literature, Music and Performing.
I believe that virtual reality and extended reality are also the birth of a new form of art that has the potential to combine all other forms of art in an incredibly powerful and immersive way. It's a form of art that quite literally transports viewers to new worlds, activating different brain waves to craft a completely immersive experience. I'm in love the visionary potential of this awe-inspiring medium.
7. Are there any challenges?
The biggest challenge I've overcome is crafting my virtual reality stories in a way that can also be distributed as regular videos on mobile, television and streaming platforms.
Virtual reality can be incredibly powerful and immersive when viewed properly with a VR headset or in a public VR exhibition. However, not everyone at home owns a VR headset, and I want my work to be seen by as many people as possible.
With my more recent works such as Yawarani, we craft everything ahead of time so we are simultaneously creating an immersive virtual reality experience AND a regular film for streaming platforms and social media. The virtual reality experience is the most powerful way to view the works, but the films are engaging when viewed on a traditional screen as well.
8. How do you get inspired?
I'm inspired by travelling and connecting deeply with the people I meet along the way. My inspiration grows organically and is cultivated by the powerful human stories I encounter on my journey.
9. Based on your experience, do you have any advice for developing your own style within this space?
VR is the perfect medium to experiment and pioneer new storytelling techniques. At this stage, the technology is so new, and it's a great opportunity to develop new ideas. First, I would start by experiencing as much VR content as possible to get inspired by what has already been done. Make sure to experience both good and bad examples of VR. Sometimes, VR can induce motion sickness, and I think it's important to understand why so it can be avoided in your own work. Once the rules and limitations are understood, developing your own style should come naturally in this exciting new medium that inherently inspires creativity and thinking outside the box.
10. What can attendees expect from your talk at #DTTTCampus?
At my talk at the #DTTTCampus, I'm going to host a hands-on workshop as we dive straight into the VR video creation process, from ideation to the creation of a prototype. Since high social reach is very important, I'll focus specifically on how to intelligently frame and storyboard a VR video so it can also be distributed in traditional formats on social media, streaming platforms and cinemas in addition to VR. And, of course, I'll demonstrate the best technical and storytelling techniques to craft a powerful virtual reality experience for distribution in VR headsets and exhibitions. I'll also screen some of my work in virtual reality headsets!
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