Earlier this year, as many of you are no doubt already aware, the energy drinks giant and prolific marketing company Red Bull entered the virtual photography space by teaming up with PlayStation to host the Red Bull Capture Point contest. Featuring 5 of the biggest photo mode enabled games on PS4 & PS5, and drawing on the experience of both video game creatives and studio developers, Capture Point was infused with the exuberance you might expect from Red Bull and was a real marker for how far things have come.
Showcasing the extraordinary beauty, fidelity & opportunity in modern video games...
The interesting creative categories, ambitious showcase and particularly impressive selection of prizes took photo mode contests to a new level and certainly made waves in the VP space, even if some of them were in the form of voices of discontent at the event being restricted to US residents only.
Of course, I have already given my opinion on why I think Capture Point was A Significant Step for the future of virtual photography in all territories, and the importance of such high profile partners should not be underestimated, but even the best events come to an end. What really matters then, is the legacy they create and the influence they have going forward, so did Capture Point manage to fulfil its potential and is the best yet to come?
The Red Bull Capture Point Digital Gallery Experience...
First things first, it is worth taking a look back at the 6 category winners along with a few words from each of the artists about what inspired their shots. Selected by the expert judging panel from thousands of contest entries, the winners showcase some of the extraordinary beauty, fidelity and opportunity that exists modern video games, as well as the creative talent of the virtual photographers who use in-game photo modes to produce expressive pieces of work.
Winner: Catching the Light
"I was inspired to take this shot because I noticed a lack of captures featuring animals in my archive. The foxes are one of the most important animals in Ghost of Tsushima, so it felt right to make something really special and striking for them."
Winner: Frozen In Time
"I am always looking for that perfect lighting to highlight a great character. This was taken in some random room, which sounds boring, but it just goes to show that you don't have to have extraordinary circumstances to capture an extraordinary moment. Beauty can be found anywhere in games."
Winner: This is Fun
"Capturing the light of a full moon is one of the many photos inspired by the innovative photo mode in Ghost of Tsushima. It was a fun challenge to combine my photography skills and the beautifully created environment to push creative limits and capture something that can show the elements of the game that might not be seen otherwise."
Winner: The Great Outdoors
"What inspired me to capture the picture was to give an idea of what the Slayer of Demons' journey could have looked like before entering the colourless fog that would bring them to Boletoria. The forest was perfect for a kind of mysterious and gloomy atmosphere as the Slayer approaches a wall of fog."
Winner: Edge of Reality & Best In Show
"I was inspired to capture the majesty and beauty of Aloy and of Horizon Zero Dawn. This photo represents a lot about my experience playing the game, and I feel that it shows a character full of passion, hope, and courage."
Winner: Emotions Run High
"Abby is my favourite part of The Last of Us Part II, and her growth as a character throughout the story is what inspired me to capture something from this amazing game. After being rescued by Lev and Yara, Abby is forced to brutally fight and escape the dark forest, doing all she can help her rescuers, little does she know that they would change her life forever."
The Wider Influence:
Each of the winners received beautifully packaged prize bundles and some deserved recognition that is sure to "give them wiiings" going forward, but Red Bull Capture Point was not only about personal reward. By showcasing the best of the entries in both real-world and virtual exhibitions, this was an event that also looked to take the art to new audiences and to boost the publicity of photo modes as a whole.
A public park and home of regular art installations on the West Side of Manhattan NY, "The High Line" played host to supersized displays of the winning images in the Chelsea Market Passage. With these imposing exhibits ready and waiting to capture the imagination of passers-by and visitors to the gardens, many of whom are likely to have been encountering virtual photography for the first time, I would like to think that it was enough to interest and inspire some people to find out more about how the images were created and maybe even give it a go themselves.
- CAPTURE POINT // HIGH LINE NYC -
For those not in New York meanwhile, virtual audiences were treated to a marvellously crafted interactive art gallery that displayed a selection of the best entries from each category in uniquely themed environments. With the main hall also hosting an enormous mural celebrating the huge number of entries, this was a place that not only showed off the beautiful art work, but also served as a reminder of virtual photography's ever-growing popularity.
- EDGE OF REALITY // THE GREAT OUTDOORS -
It is fair to say then, that the vision for Capture Point was excellent, but did it maximise its potential? I am being picky here, but I actually don't think it did – and I am not talking about regional limitations. In fact, it could be argued that the concluding displays, impressive though they were, did not reach as many people as they could have done.
For example, images of the long-since dismantled High Line installation are seemingly very scarce, and it feels like a missed opportunity for official channels not to have shared more about it on social media so that those unable to make it in person could still take a look. The digital gallery too, was created to a standard that was surely worth more than the maximum 30 minute viewing time allotted to the by-appointment-only visitors. All available for just 3 days, it is unfortunate that anyone discovering the event at a later date will likely struggle to find out about these otherwise innovative experiences, and that is a real shame.
- DIGITAL GALLERY EXPERIENCE // RED BULL -
Fortunately, not everything has been so impermanent and a number of persistent pieces of photo mode-related content have been added to the Red Bull website, perhaps implying an interest that is more than just a passing one. Having been privileged enough to team up with Red Bull Gaming to produce some of that content, one thing that is clear to me is a desire to help grow the awareness and appreciation of the art form.
While being given the opportunity to write a 2-part editorial – introducing the fundamentals of virtual photography and going hands-on with examples – was obviously rewarding from a personal perspective, it is knowing that this content has a home beyond a single contest, and that it may encourage new people to pick up a photo mode that is most exciting.
- RED BULL VP EDITORIAL // THEFOURTHFOCUS -
It goes without saying that I am not able to predict where Capture Point goes from here or what the future holds for Red Bull in the virtual photography space. It is also worth pointing out that the opinions here are entirely my own and not endorsed by Red Bull, but I do think a lasting legacy has been created. A legacy that could continue to propel photo modes into the interest of a wider audience, and one that has already served to enhance the credibility of the art form and raise the bar for what can be expected from official events and contests.
The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed for many though, is the regional limitation. It is important to understand that laws in different parts of the world do vary, and that staging a truly global high-profile contest is a considerable challenge, but creativity is multi-national and it is crucial to find a way to reach as many people as possible, even if it is with parallel events that serve each territory.
- TRAFFIC LOCATIONS // THEFOURTHFOCUS -
So, whether this "first national creative capture contest" can be followed by a second and a third, or even go global remains to be seen, but I firmly believe that just like in real-world photography, more high profile events that promote quality and creativity will be beneficial to the art. Whatever the future for capture art holds, I would certainly be glad to see more things like Red Bull Capture Point.