Carne y Arena Carne y Arena is Alejandro G Iñárritu’s first venture into virtual reality. With it, the Oscar-winning director offers an ‘immersive’ experience representing refugees and immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border.

To create the levels of realism required, the custom VR technology used for the installation includes Meyer Sound loudspeakers capable of producing very high SPL at frequencies extending below the threshold of hearing.

‘My intention was to experiment with VR technology to explore the human condition, in an attempt to break the dictatorship of the frame – within which things are just observed – and claim the space to allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin and into their hearts,’ Iñárritu explains.

Carne y Arena

The experimental visual installation Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) is a six-and-a-half minute solo experience that reunites Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, alongside producer Mary Parent.

Sound design for the project was by Martin Hernandez, another frequent Iñárritu collaborator, and Skywalker Sound Director of Sound Design Randy Thom at Skywalker Sound’s studios in Marin County, California. Exhibition system development was supervised by Skywalker Director of Engineering, Steve Morris.

The exhibition is limited to one person at a time, as the solo participant is free to move around a space of about 2,500-sq-ft to experience the action from different perspectives. The broadband audio is heard on Sony headphones which, alone, are unable to deliver the powerful low frequencies. ‘Most headphones cannot reproduce clean, powerful sounds below about 50Hz,’ explains John Meyer, ‘and the visceral effect of the extreme lows involves sensations that are processed by the brain independently of the ears.’

The system for the VR installation uses two different Meyer Sound systems. One is the 1100-LFC low-frequency control element, while the other is the new VLFC very low frequency control element, recently in production but with limited availability. The VLFC powerfully reproduces sound only in the single octave that bridges the threshold of hearing, between 15Hz and 30Hz.

‘We developed the first versions of the VLFC for NASA to use in vibration testing,’ says Meyer. ‘But we decided to continue development for uses in both cinema and concert applications. We have done extensive double-blind testing here in our own Pearson Theatre. There’s no doubt that people have a different psychological response when we add in or remove that extra octave from 15-30Hz.’

Carne y Arena is produced and financed by Legendary Entertainment and Fondazione Prada, and was given its world premiere during the recent Festival de Cannes where it became the first VR project chosen as an Official Selection of the festival. There will be extended exhibitions at Fondazione Prada in Milan and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as well as the Tlatelolco Cultural Center in Mexico City.


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