Programming a VR Film Festival

VR film is an emerging medium. Film festivals like SIFF are using SPIN Studio to integrate VR into their programming

Showing VR content at film festivals 

As VR video technology has advanced, more and more filmmakers are recognizing its potential for telling stories. Film festivals are responding to this growing community of VR filmmakers by integrating VR content into their programming. Not only does this give recognition to the work of outstanding VR filmmakers, but it also broadens public access to this new and compelling form of media.

What VR film brings to the table

VR film has the incredible power to engage viewers in a way that 2D and even 3D film does not. When immersed in a 360° experience, placed in the shoes of a character or the middle of a storyline, viewers can better relate to the content they consume, fostering empathy and understanding.

VR film fever

VR films are being recognized all over the globe, and not just by VR-only film festivals. Many major film festivals have already worked VR into their programming in some way, including Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes and Venice. In 2017, the Seattle International Film Festival presented their first SIFF 360/VR Award to recognize excellence in virtual reality filmmaking.

The SIFF VR Zone

At the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival, guests could register for a 90-minute slot in the SIFF VR Zone. Once inside, participants were able to experience personal narratives, love stories, music videos, and more. The selection of VR works shown at SIFF included Sun Ladies, the story of a group of Yazidi women who fought against ISIS after their invasion of Iraq, and Sanctuaries of Silence, an immersive experience inside Olympic National Park.

“With Pixvana’s technology and VR casting solution, there are no complicated menus to navigate through...Partnering with Pixvana to run our 360 video program allows us to maximize the number of pieces each guest has a chance to see during their 90-minute time slot in the SIFF VR Zone”

Sarah Wilke | SIFF Executive Director

"The 'Auto Play' functionality allowed us to run 18 headsets, showing 26 pieces of content seamlessly.
One docent was able to run an entire room, where typically we would have needed 5-6."

Kim Voynar | CEO of WonderTek Labs and Producer of SIFF VR Zone

Automate the VR viewing experience

Ninety percent of film festival goers have never tried a VR headset before, so Pixvana developed a new feature called Auto-Play for SIFF’s VR Zone that dramatically improved the viewer experience. Auto-Play launches content automatically the minute the VR headset is put on. A helpful 5-4-3-2-1 countdown gives time for adjusting the fit of the headset and settling in for the show. With Auto-Play, festival viewers can pick up any headset and start viewing without VR assistant staff having to be hands on with every attendee—cutting down on staffing levels and ultimately saving money.

Cloud-to-headset programming

SIFF’s VR festival programmers used Pixvana’s SPIN Studio to manage which films appeared on each of their 30 Samsung Gear VR headsets. SPIN Studio can send content directly from the cloud to each device, a simple process which eliminates the need for cumbersome cables and time-consuming side-loading. Pixvana’s SPIN Play was used to play the video for the festival guests.

A complete solution for programming VR film festivals

The combination of SPIN Studio for managing the programming and SPIN Play for headset playback powered a great festival experience in the 2018 SIFF VR Zone. The festival was able to operate the VR Zone with less staff than would otherwise be required, thanks to the fully-automated start/stop and headset-on/off capabilities of SPIN Play. SPIN Studio allowed individual films to be programmed and managed from the cloud–greatly reducing cost and complexity for running the VR Zone.

Watch the SIFF VR Zone Trailer

Check out this VR promo trailer for SIFF’s 2018 VR Zone program.

If you are planning a VR Film festival, get in touch with us–we donate our software to film festivals, and can help you get started for free!