Virtual reality dominates at Sundance’s New Frontier

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The 2016 Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program is becoming a showcase for virtual reality experiences. VR debuted at New Frontier with four pieces in 2014. That grew to nine pieces this past year and in 2016 the Sundance Film Festival will feature 30 VR experiences. This is next to three feature films, a live performance and eleven installations. The growing number of VR pieces at the world’s premier film festival is testament to VR’s developing place in the art of storytelling.

2016 is the 10th Anniversary of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier program which was launched in 2006 to showcase and advance the work of artists and technologists working in new media to tell stories in new ways.

The work at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival include immersive cinematic works, virtual reality installations, an extensive line-up of documentary and narrative mobile VR experiences and an inside look at the innovations being developed at some of world’s leading media research labs.

Real Virtuality: Immersive Explorers is an example of an installation that festival goers will be able to experience via an HTC Vive headset. Created by artists Sylvain Chagué and Caecilia Charbonnier in collaboration with Bart Kevelham and David Hodgetts, this multiuser immersive platform combines motion capture with virtual reality headsets that allows users to move freely within the physical space, interact with objects and other participants, and virtually visit 3-D interactive environments. Gilles Jobin and Susana Panades Diaz are in the cast.

In The Martian VR Experience festival goers will get the opportunity to deepen their experience of Ridley Scott’s hit film, The Martian, as they step into the shoes of astronaut Mark Watney as he performs tasks that will facilitate his chances for survival and rescue. Viewers can fly onto the surface of Mars, steer at zero gravity through space and drive a rover.

Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer and Chief Curator, New Frontier, said in a statement, “This year’s program provides a sensory experience that powerfully transports audiences to uncommon places and ways of being, offering an opportunity to become viscerally aware of the vital connections between our brains, bodies and biosphere. The future of storytelling affords us the ability to observe ourselves and our instincts and become more conscious of the way we make choices and decisions.”

The 2016 Sundance Film Festival takes place from 21 to 31 January in Park City, Utah.