January 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of Sundance New Frontier, the exhibition at Sundance Film Festival which showcases cutting-edge transmedia storytelling and multi-media content in the intersection of technology, film, media, and art. This year’s exhibition featured the most diverse selection of works yet, focusing largely on XR (virtual, mixed, and augmented reality).
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching the XR space – we expect to see a dramatic increase in XR programming at festivals this year. Many headsets came to market in 2016, and 2017 is set to be a major year for content as increased access to hardware and software toolkits enable creators to explore storytelling in XR.
Some of the most imaginative and thought-provoking works this year were 360-degree videos, ranging from immersive documentaries on climate change to interactive experiences which truly put the viewer inside the story, often through unusual and unexpected perspectives. Many of these films will be available on VR platforms such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR.
Here are the 360 live-action and documentary videos featured in 2017’s Sundance New Frontier:
Chasing Coral: The VR Experience / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Jeff Orlowski) — Zackary Rago, a passionate scuba diver and researcher, documented the unprecedented 2016 coral bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef with this exclusive underwater VR experience.
If Not Love / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Rose Troche, Key Collaborator: Bruce Allan) — A conflicted Christian man carries out a mass shooting. In his past: a same-sex hookup and self-loathing. What if events had unfolded differently? What if his partner had convinced him to face himself? Could that simple act change the course of history? Cast: Zachary Booth, Mitchell Winter.
Melting Ice / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Danfung Dennis) — Al Gore takes viewers on a transcendent exploration into the devastating consequences of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet. Stand under collapsing glaciers, next to raging rivers of ice melt and witness rising sea levels—all visceral warnings of our planet’s future. Cast: Al Gore, Dr. Konrad Steffen.
Miyubi / Canada (Lead Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Key Collaborator: Owen Burke) — Experience love and obsolescence as a Japanese toy robot, gifted to a child in the home of a fractured family in 1982 suburban America. Cast: Jeff Goldblum, P.J. Byrne, Emily Bergl, Owen Vaccaro, Richard Riehle, Ted Sutherland, Tatum Kensington Bailey.
Through You / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Saschka Unseld, Lily Baldwin) — Dance is used to inhabit a common mortal story of love born, lived, lost, burned and seemingly gone forever—only to be found again. Cast: Joanna Kotze, Amari Cheatom, Marni Thomas Wood.
Heroes / While using 2-D, virtual reality, and augmented reality headsets, become immersed in a fiercely athletic and romantic dance that permeates an extravagant movie palace where silent films were once shown. Melissa Painter and her key collaborators have crafted a multidimensional experience that lets you chase dancers around a pool and on stage, scale through a labyrinth of stunning architecture, and even reach out and hold the dancers in the palm of your hand. After the swirl of experience, you will find that you have accomplished a dance of your own.