Immersion itself is the story of the significance of water to South Australia,” event director Nathan Bazley says of the headline experience in Light’s month-long Immerse event.

“As we go through this story, we will take people to locations from 50 million years ago when South Australia was a rainforest, right through to the Adelaide plains and River Torrens as they are today, where we learn more about their Kaurna significance.”

Immersion is presented within the Ellipse, a purpose-built room at Light which has been created with a 360-degree LED display stretching 13m by 8m in an oval shape and reaching 4m in height. Bazley describes the audience experience as being like virtual reality “but shared with 39 other people and not a headset or controller in sight”.

The interactive storytelling elements of Immersion are created using Unreal Engine ­– a real-time 3D creation tool commonly employed to create highly detailed online video games. Special sensors in Ellipse will capture visitors’ movements, allowing them to interact in real time with the images on the screens.

“It’s the combination of these attributes that makes it something that is treading new ground and we are proud that it is being made right here in South Australia by South Australian creatives and developers,” says Bazley.

Immersion was built from a concept developed by Bazley alongside the Light team, founder Nick Dunstone and CEO Amanda Pepe, to use technology dynamically and give audiences a new storytelling experience.

“I sat down and tried to write a story that related to as many people as possible within South Australia; a story that would work for South Australians seeing this new technology for the first time and play to its strengths,” says Bazley.

“We wrote that story and made it into the production it is today: Immersion.”

Immersion’s story is narrated by actor Erik Thomson and audiences will interact with it by using their bodies to control elements of the environments shown on the screen. As they walk around Ellipse, the screens will take them to different locations.

The story begins 50 million years ago when South Australia was a dense rainforest and enables audience members to control and grow giant heliconia plants with their body’s movements.

Participants will then splash down to an underwater scene where they become immersed in the ocean and control schools of fish using hand movements. Next, they will enter the Australian bush at dusk, using their hands to control torches and shine light beams into the brush, highlighting little creatures roaming within.

Finally, they get a bird’s-eye view of Adelaide and throw paintballs to splatter the city in colour before it is washed clean again by water.

“Our computers are making these visuals in real time as people are watching them, which allows us to do this interactive element,” Bazley says.

“Employing incredible sensors that haven’t been used for this purpose in Australia before, we can estimate where audience members are in the space and how they are moving their bodies, and then interpret it and put it live into the show.”

The creative and technical team behind Immersion includes creative director Adam Paschke, who has worked with VFX for Hollywood blockbusters such as Gravity and Thor Ragnarok. Working alongside Paschke is creative mentor Tim Gruchy, who has extensive experience with immersive and interactive multimedia, and director Shane Aherne, the founder of Adelaide-based 3D visualisation company ModelFarm.

“We would love to see creatives, developers, all sorts of different skillsets coming in here and seeing what they can do for audiences,” Bazley says of the Ellipse space.

“Adelaideans and South Australians have this tremendous wealth of experience in this area because of their abilities in the visual effects and the games industry. All of those skillsets are perfect to create incredible experiences here and not only would we like to continue to give those to audiences in South Australia, but we would also like to have them spread around the world and show everyone what South Australians can do.”

Immersion will be presented from November 5-28 as part of the new Immerse event hosted by Light ADL in Light Square.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.