Signal Space Lab : a genesis
Interactive film in virtual reality is booming, and it is the area in which Signal Space Lab has chosen to specialize.
Their first creation with this medium, AFTERLIFE, is a family drama that takes us into the lives of members of a bereaved family. The creation gives the impression of a traditional film, but it is in fact an interactive experience, where we are offered the opportunity to develop the story as we please.
AFTERLIFE is the result of 3 years of research and development. With a $500,000 grant from the CMF, the studio wanted to create an extraordinary experience that would put the studio in the spotlight:
“With my colleague Luisa Valencia, we sat down and wondered how to create original content and tell a story that has never been told elsewhere. Our ambition was to find our place in the industry, a place where we could act as a pioneer.”Jose Aguirre, director and founder
The hard core of the studio comes from the video, film and audio industries. For this experience, the team chose to combine live action and interactivity to give users the chance to develop their own scenario. Thus was born AFTERLIFE.
The shooting took place in the fall of 2018 and spanned 6 weeks. The team used a conventional stereoscopic camera, but also had the opportunity to create a custom camera to give the director more personalized framing control.
The experience was launched in August 2019 on the Oculus platform, before making its way to multiple platforms such as PlayStation, Steam, VivePort Mobile and finally Apple Store. An adaptation of the experience that took place without major obstacles, says Jose Aguirre.
“I have to say that it was more complicated with Apple. We had to insist that the work be displayed on the App Store and not on iTunes, but it is like the hybrid creation that we created. Otherwise, developing for Playstation and Oculus requires different approaches. But for other media, they are similar, such as for PC and Steam. “Jose Aguirre
By deploying the experience on as many platforms, the team took the opportunity to explore the performance of each, and thus assess the reception of the public. If it is still too early to learn lessons about broadcasting, AFTERLIFE seems to have mainly appealed to the movie buff community compared to that of video game enthusiasts.
“We had a great reception from the film industry. Which is probably normal, because AFTERLIFE remains a cinematic experience with interactivity. This is also an area on which we have focused our promotional efforts.”Jose Aguirre
Conversely, the experience offers relatively limited interactivity when compared to a video game. Designed as fluidly as possible, it does not include any indications to users or even a game interface. This approach to “free” interactivity can confuse some more seasoned players, and has been raised in some feedback from the video game industry.
In the end, AFTERLIFE found its audience and garnered recognition: the experience was notably in the running for the Canadian Screen Awards in the category Best immersive fiction experience. The winners will be announced in March.
With AFTERLIFE, the studio has developed its own narrative techniques, which will be used for the next project, BECOMING A REMOTE ACCESS TOOL (temporary name).
“For us, the production challenge is not so much on the technical side, but rather in the multi-channel narrative. It is in this area that we intend to use our learning to design an experience that raises the bar. “Jose Aguirre
The still confidential project will focus on a lighter theme than AFTERLIFE and will be designed to reach a wider audience.
Recently, Studio Signal Lab was particularly encouraged to see Netflix launch an interactive film like BANDERSNATCH. The studio wants to see the popularity of the immersive interactive format grow as well as the offer on platforms.
“The only rule we follow is to be as innovative as possible. This is how we will reap the benefits of the democratization of the format.”Jose Aguirre