FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Jozef Barančik, Unity 3D Developer of Czech Project Darkening

PRAGUE: FNE spoke with Jozef Barančik, Unity 3D Developer of Czech/German coproduction Darkening / Tmání about the project, as well as the state of the Czech game development industry. Darkening is directed by Ondřej Moravec and produced by Hana Blaha Šilarová through Frame Films.

Jozef Barančik is also a Unity 3D Developer at Brainz Immersive, an award-winning creative studio based in Prague.

Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

FNE: What can you tell us about the Darkening project, for which you were the Unity 3D Developer?

Jozef Barančik: Darkening is an animated interactive VR film, which shows how the world is perceived by someone with depression, as well as the ways to cope with it. The film follows the personal story of our director Ondřej Moravec and through animation, a stylised form of Ondřej’s environment and abstract images of his emotions, the viewers experience and understand what it is like to live with depression, how to tackle it and what mechanisms are used by people with depression to feel better.

The main character Ondřej finds out that his tool to get the depression under control is his voice. The viewers will be asked to join Ondřej in humming, singing and shouting during the film, and thus they will progress in the story, because most interactions are voice controlled.

FNE: What is the current situation in the Czech gaming industry and what distinguishes it from the industry of other countries?

Jozef Barančik: The Czech gaming industry is in quite a good shape and it is much bigger compared to Slovakia (my home country). There are multiple schools dedicated to game development. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering CTU in Prague (ČVUT) has a game development programmeFAMU has a game design programme, and also there is the Czech Game Developers Association, as well as an yearly event called Game Developers Session. Also, compared to a country like Slovakia, there are a lot of brain gains, because there are a lot of people from the neighbouring countries coming to work to Prague.

FNE: Film and games convergence is a hot topic now. What can you tell us about the relationship between the gaming industry and film in your experience? Do you have any experience using VFX in terms of games?

Jozef Barančik: The boundary between games and films is very thin, especially when it comes to VR films and VR narrative games, because in both of those you will have a story and you will want to interact with the world around you, so the only differentiating factor is the amount of interactions and the impossibility to lose, because you cannot fail watching a film.

As a matter of fact, before I started working at Brainz I was working in the gaming industry.

FNE: What can you tell us about Brainz Immersive activities? Have you worked with game developers?

Jozef Barančik: Brainz Immersive is a studio specialised in crafting premium VR & AR experiences that shape the entertainment of the future and help brands to step into the world of tomorrow. Our portfolio spans from XR configurators and virtual training platforms to gamified brand experiences and art installations. HERE you can see our game Energy Zone, which was made for ČEZ, and HERE the 360° tour of the nuclear power plant Temelín, Czech Republic.

In Brainz we work with game developers, and most of the people here came from the gaming industry.

FNE: Are games going to IPO on Czech stock market and do the companies going to IPO include a film person or film projects?

Jozef Barančik: Unfortunately, I cannot say much about the subject, because neither my current company nor the companies where I worked in the past went through it. But there is a huge potential for it in the future.

FNE: How important are full-motion/real-life footage game projects to your work?

Jozef Barančik: We are using it in our newest VR film Fresh Memories created by Volodymyr Kolbasa (Ukraine), Ondřej Moravec (Czech Republic) and Vartan Markarian (Ukraine). We are going for a deeper immersion between AR and VR, so we are using a lot of real life footage as well as photogrammetry objects. We are working on it with a Ukrainian coproducer and we are telling the story of old Ukrainian women, who suffered from war.

FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and gaming industries?

Jozef Barančik: We will definitely see the development in the film industry in the next years as there is already an overlap between those two, and hopefully we will see more experiments in film industry such as films projected on different platforms, which will allow the viewers to interact with the story in new ways.


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