People were walking through film locations and painting in a virtual-reality setting during the weekend’s South Western International Film Festival.

“You completely forget yourself in there,” said Nick Duranleau about his virtual-reality painting session.

The virtual-reality technology was provided by District Beta in the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery.

Painters donned a headset and held a controller in each hand as they selected the background canvas for their work. Their brush strokes were displayed on a screen while they moved in their painting.

“It tricks your brain. You forget you are holding plastic controllers,” said Duranleau.

Travis Kelly, co-owner of District Beta, called the collaboration of SWIFF, the gallery and his company an amazing opportunity for people to experience what the future will be.

The painting was just one of the experiences open to participants at the gallery.

They were also able to get into a film by wearing a virtual-reality headset.

In an short film by Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail people were able to walk with rangers in the Republic of the Congo Garamba National Park. The rangers are charged with protection of elephants from poachers.

“It puts you in their shoes,” said Duranleau.

Duranleau, a Toronto resident, was in Sarnia for SWIFF due to his contribution to the event.

Duranleau met SWIFF executive director Ravi Srinivasan while they were working together at a film production company.

Srinivasan is an energy source for SWIFF, said Duranleau.

“People see him and say lets get on board (with SWIFF),” said Duranleau.

SWIFF was showing films like the Florida Project with actor Willem Dafoe along with staging concerts in downtown Sarnia along with media workshops.

SWIFF has grown in its three year history.

Levi Webb, who worked on the virtual reality program has conducted his own unofficial poll.

During the festival’s first year he had difficulty finding people in the community who knew about it.

During the recent weekend “every cab driver knew about the festival,” said Webb.

Original Article