August 22, 2019

First volumetric film of an interview with a contemporary witness: short film ERNST GRUBE – DAS VERMÄCHTNIS

The first volumetric interview with a contemporary witness of the Holocaust was filmed on August 21 in the Volucap studio in Potsdam-Babelsberg near Berlin. The project is a joint cooperation of UFA, under the direction of UFA Technology head and producer Ernst Feiler, and UFA SHOW & FACTUAL producer Philipp Grieß, together with the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI. Dr. Oliver Schreer leads the related activities at Fraunhofer HHI, which is responsible for the technical side of the project.

The last survivors to have experienced the horror of National Socialism personally are already in an old age. The short film ERNST GRUBE – DAS VERMÄCHTNIS (‘Ernst Grube – The Legacy’) works to preserve these voices. The remembrances of Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube have been recorded for subsequent generations using volumetric video technology, whose underlying technology ‘3D Human Body Reconstruction’ was developed by researchers at Fraunhofer HHI. In the volumetric studio of Volucap GmbH, the Jewish survivor recounts his experiences in National Socialist Germany and his imprisonment in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. In the volumetric studio, 16 camera pairs and an enormous amount of computing power created a lifelike three-dimensional depiction of the gripping contemporary witness report, which can be directly integrated in a virtual world. This ‘walk-in movie’ illustrates a historical account in an unprecedented way. The portrayal of the topic as a virtual reality experience is intended in particular for younger generations, for whom the events of the National Socialist era may seem distant. ERNST GRUBE – DAS VERMÄCHTNIS is a new milestone in the documentation of a central chapter of German history and is thus an important contribution to the German and European culture of remembrance.

Nico Hofmann, CEO UFA: ‘We are sending an important signal by making our first documentary VR project an interview with the Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube. As producers of media we have a special responsibility to society and to the German Culture of Remembrance. We intentionally focus on a substantive encounter with the younger generation by having a 16-year-old secondary school student interview Ernst Grube. I am very pleased that UFA has been able to realize this important project using VR technology and in technical collaboration with the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute.’

Dr. Oliver Schreer, Head of the Immersive Media & Communication Group in the Vision and Imaging Technologies department at Fraunhofer HHI: ‘Our '3D Human Body Reconstruction' is the technology of the future for the realistic representation of contemporary witnesses in Virtual and Augmented Reality applications. With our approach, we can integrate persons into a virtual environment and make them appear as lifelike as they do in the real world. The technology can be used wherever authenticity is important, opening the door to an enormous new field of applications, e.g. the authentic portrayal of history and the accounts of contemporary witnesses.’

The short film ERNST GRUBE – DAS VERMÄCHTNIS is to be the first in a series of interviews with contemporary witnesses. Current plans are to screen the short film in cooperation with an educational institution in regional schools, memorial sites and at individual events. One of the long-term goals of the project is the establishment of VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) applications of this type as an element in teaching and continuing education.

Under the auspices of UFA, the project ERNST GRUBE – DAS VERMÄCHTNIS is supervised on the substantive level by UFA SHOW & FACTUAL and on a technical level by UFA SERIAL DRAMA and the UFA technology department.