‘Bystanding: The Feingold Syndrome׳ is a volumetric VR film created by Nim Shapira and Roi Lev. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2021 competing for the Tribeca Immerse Best Non-fiction, and it was also part of Cannes XR3.
‘Bystanding’ is an immersive interactive VR docufiction that reenacts and recreates the capsize and drowning of Israeli kayaking champion Jasmine Feingold in Tel Aviv’s River in 2009. Jasmine was submerged for four and half minutes, and during that time, none of the many people present on the riverbank jumped to help her. The film allows participants to experience bystanders’ points of view, and to listen to their streams of thoughts and confessions of the reasons they didn’t take action on that day. The volumetric VR film raises awareness about “the bystander effect,” a psychological phenomenon in which people are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. As our society faces an empathy deficit, the film reflects on our responsibility when we witness people in distress.
In order for participants to walk freely in the park, Lev and Shapira needed to create a 3D world. The park was recreated as it was back then with a technique called photogrammetry, which uses many photos to reconstruct an extremely realistic 3D model. Next, the creators tracked down many bystanders of that day, who were interviewed and later interpreted by award-winning actors. Volumetric capture was used in order to represent them in the most realistic way possible.
Lev and Shapira captured over 60 people in Tetavi studios, and the choice of using volumetric video brought its own set of challenges and potentials. ”Being surrounded by cameras, speaking directly to people you cannot see was a challenging task for most of our cast”, said Lev, “and capturing so many people also demanded that the team will find ways to streamline the process.“
”I have never directed a volumetric performance before, as this is a brand-new form of storytelling.” said Shapira, ”There have been so many tests and preparations – what makeup works best on which face or what clothes to avoid. Due to the fact that we captured each person individually, we also had to plan in advance where characters’ gazes would meet in the virtual world.
When choosing which takes will be processed, we reviewed both the most convincing takes in terms of acting as well as the most successful takes in terms of capturing ability. After selecting the perfect takes, the materials were sent for processing and then returned the volumetric product for us to review. It was a very exciting experience – meeting the volumetric characters for the first time.”
In this behind the scenes video, the creators talk about the production process of the film:
Volumetric video as a technology has evolved a lot in the last few years, and nowadays, Tetavi’s capture solution is much more accessible to creators. Roi Lev, now director of business development at Tetavi, shares the differences of working with the technology then and now:
“When we started working on Bystanding, Tetavi was still in R&D. These were exciting times as this mix of researchers, developers and talent met each other and worked together to find new solutions for telling stories. The same technology is now adopted by the most sophisticated and advanced studios in Hollywood and around the world, allowing world’s top creatives to transition into the emerging metaverse. Along with that, Tetavi is working on complimentary solutions, making this way of telling stories accessible to any creator and bringing this way of thinking to the mainstream”.
‘Bystanding: The Feingold Syndrome׳ was co-produced with KNGFU (Montreal) and Another World VR (Berlin). ‘Bystanding’ is realized by Tetavi and is supported by the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (MBB), KAN (the Israeli public broadcaster), Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts, Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, and the Makor Foundation for Israeli Film and Television.
The film is currently being presented in London’s Open City Documentary Festival.