VR Reigns in New Frontier Category at Sundance Film Festival

In the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier exhibition, virtual reality is making a strong showing with 11 VR installations at this year’s festival. The projects range from a high-flying experience through the skies of San Francisco to a first-person perspective of a college assault as well as a number of compelling examples regarding how news gathering and documentary storytelling is evolving. The technology is advancing so rapidly that creators already have new ideas about how to produce the content.

Oculus_Crescent_Bay_PrototypeVirtual reality has come a long way since since the first time it debuted at Sundance in 2012. “It’s really mind boggling,” Shari Frilot, curator for New Frontier, said. “The profile of the Oculus Rift and the medium is sparking a mini industry and it’s happening in a very muscular way.” Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion last year, and other VR firms are also getting more interest from investors.

Felix & Paul, a VR startup with three different clips to share at Sundance, has more than doubled their team in the last six months because of the interest in VR. The Felix & Paul team created VR experiences like a studio session with a musician, a dinner with a family of yak herders, and a scene from the movie “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon.

Meanwhile, Max Rheiner, a professor at the Zurich University of the Arts, not only created a VR experience, but a full-body contraption that helps give users the illusion of flying. Users lay face down on the contraption wearing a VR headset and their movements, like a downward tilt of the arms, will control the experience. There are even fans to simulate the wind.

Film director Rose Troche and visual effects specialist Morris May were going for a different type of authenticity when they created their VR experience about a college rape. The experience is first-person, and it switches points of view from the boy to the girl to show the subjectivity of perspectives in these types of situations.

“In the short time since he’s finished the piece, the technology has evolved so fast, he probably would do the project completely differently with an entirely new set of equipment,” The Wall Street Journal reports. However, despite the technological advances, VR still leaves some viewers feeling a little nauseous.

Related:
Video Feature: Signs That Virtual Reality is on the Verge of Taking Off, The New York Times, 1/28/15
The First Live VR Broadcast Brought the Beach to My Backyard, Engadget, 1/26/15
Filmmakers Need a Virtual Reality Editing Suite, So Visionary VR Built It, TechCrunch, 1/25/15
Mozilla Wants to Bring Virtual Reality to the Browser, TechCrunch, 1/24/15
Is Virtual Reality the Future of News?, The Independent, 1/23/15