City of Dawn (Auroville)
Utopia Calling. Documenting Auroville with Virtual Reality
Once a year Vostok VR chooses a passion project based on a theme. In 2016 that was award-winning documentary Happyland360, a film about children living in a slum near Manila’s city centre. In 2017 it was the award-winning cinematic experience Abandon, a project filmed in a ghost tower in the centre of Bangkok. In 2018 the team travelled to Auroville in Pondicherry to explore utopias with Singaporean poet and photographer Marc Nair who directed the VR film. This was the first project for Vostok VR to use a guest director.
The experimental township of Auroville exists without money, government or the police and aims to fulfill a vision of a utopia. As founder Mirra Alfassa phrases it, "The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”
While the technology of filming in such a place is fairly standard, the logistics can be very complex.
The space itself was quite unusual and it was difficult to get rights to film it. The Matrimandir, the focal point of the town and a prominent part of the storyline, was off-limits to cameras.
In addition to three hours of 360 video footage filmed during the week of travel, the crew recreated a 3D model of the famous Matrimandir. Pictures and images of the inside are completely unavailable as filming is strictly prohibited. The team relied solely on Marc’s Nair memory to recreate the inside scenes. Drone use was also off-limits as use of this technology is strictly regulated in India and especially controlled in Auroville. The entire area drone shot was created using Google’s virtual reality painting tool, Tilt Brush.
Over 80 shots were created of Auroville, its environment and the local town of Pondicherry. Production was done within five days in December 2017 by a team of three people. It took more than 15 post production revisions to decide the direction of the story.
The viewer gets a glimpse into how the nearly 2,000 residents of Auroville and a constant pool of volunteers created an intensely unique and thriving community with a shared vision. The virtual reality movie touches on a different way of life and poses thoughtful questions about the essential value of the self to the viewer.
The film presents as a visual diary and is the first 360-degree video of the City of Dawn. It was submitted to VR film festivals and showcased in a Singapore art installation for 50 selected guests of Vostok VR.