Better Known Truths – Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018

We have always been big fans of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Doc/Fest). Our favourite part of the festival is the Alternate Realities programme. It has continued to innovate and showcase the best of immersive documentary content. 

This year the Alternate Realities Programme consisted of two parts; Better Known Truths, a series of 360 films that explored 5 topics and The World Unknown To You, a room filled with artistic installations incorporating immersive technology into the way it tells a story.

One of the reasons why we continue to work with Doc/Fest, is that we love the people that we get to work with. When it comes to festivals you don’t always see the hard work that goes into the creation beforehand and with working as tech wizards behind the scenes you get to see the incredibly hard work by the people who are involved. (So make sure you always take festival staff out for a drink during them).

If you are familiar with the events that we have been involved in the last three years, you will be aware that we spend a fair bit of time organising and managing virtual reality cinemas. What I love about VR cinemas is how you can really change the way people think about virtual reality. Before you have even put on a headset, you should feel like the experience has already started. Everything has an impact; how you enter the room, how you are directed to your seat, and what is said to you during the setup and introduction, all have an impact on the pathway to putting on a headset. 


Better Known Truths set up 

The Alternate Realities exhibition was located in the Trafalgar warehouse, with the The World Unknown To You downstairs with Better Known Truths upstairs. We had a large warehouse open space, with a triangle shape of spinning chairs in the centre of the room. The room was complete with projected images across the back and the side of the room.

Those visiting the cinema would enter from the front doors and would be greeted by a member of the Doc/Fest staff who would introduce the playlist, health and safety, and relevant information to how the next 20-30 minutes will proceed. That way, there would be no surprises and everyone watching the experiences were aware that staff were on hand at any moment to help.

Once everyone had a headset on and were comfortable the playlist would play, through a synchronisation application called Showtime VR.


The Content

The content for Better known Truths was organised into 5 curated playlists which guests could book in to see at selected times; I really liked the idea of having a playlist that you can book onto. It also allowed people to book onto several playlists, go and see the rest of the exhibition and come back. The care and attention to this really made a big difference and think worked really well instead of throwing all the content together. 

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the festival this year, we have listed below with all the categories and links for more information about each piece.


The Journey

Yemen’s Skies of Terror


Life After Hate: Meeting a Monster

Berlin Paris Terror


The Real Thing

Grenfell: Our Home


This Is Climate Change: Feast & Famine

Every King Tide


Authentically Us: We’re Still Here

Sanctuaries of Silence


The Reaction

We heard some great reactions, comments and discussions throughout our time during the festival about Better known truths and it was also great to read the write-ups after the festival. Check out the two-piece below for some fantastic insight.

Marisol Grandon from Unfold Stories wrote a great insight for the BFI, check it out here

Jamie Feltham from Upload had a fantastic write up from spending a day with us just before we opened, check it out here

The Alternate Realities exhibition goes on Tour very soon so keep an eye out for more information very soon for locations. Follow them on Twitter to keep up to date