Image courtesy: Kaiju Fury!
By Angela Watercutter
Next month, a giant industry gathering is going to be flooded with virtual-reality experiences: the Birdly flight simulator; something that lets users confront a kaiju attack; an Oculus Rift-enabled spin on combat training; even a VR installation that lets you go to a college party. But this isn’t the line-up for CES—it’s the Sundance Film Festival.
After bringing a handful of Oculus Rift installations to Sundance in 2014, the festival’s New Frontier program, which focuses on innovation in filmmaking, is doubling down and bringing in a much larger slate of virtual reality experiences for 2015. Of the 13 installations in the program, nine feature VR and one of the remaining four—a videogame-esque piece about the Iranian Revolution in 1979—could have a virtual version one day. It’s a slate, senior programmer Shari Frilot says, that shows VR is “a point of conversation that’s going to be really relevant to festival audiences and filmmakers.”
“I’ve never really seen anything like this where a new technology is so muscularly poised to hit the market,” says Frilot, who has curated the New Frontier program for nine years. “This is the year that we’re really going to get wired into this hardware in a major way. It really has the potential to shift the [filmmaking] terrain quite a bit in a very significant and deep way.”
Oculus, of course, has been to Sundance before. In 2012, a pre-Oculus Palmer Luckey made the VR goggles for Nonny de la Peña’s “immersive journalism” project Hunger in Los Angeles. (Peña will be back in 2015 with a piece on children in Syria.) Last January, festivalgoers got a taste of the space dogfighting game EVE: Valkyrie on the Rift, and multimedia artist Chris Milk brought an immersive version of his “Sound and Vision” Beck concert that was a hit with fans. He’ll also be returning for Sundance 2015.
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