Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people indoors and into isolation, most major events around the world have taken a virtual route. This year, the iconic Sundance Film Festival is also going virtual, but that is not limited to a mere livestream. Sundance is building an extensive virtual reality platform for attendees which can be accessed with or without a VR headset.
"Having our hand forced to build a virtual solution to present New Frontier solved so many problems we were having and struggling with on the ground," Shari Frilot, Sundance's New Frontier curator and senior programmer told Engadget in an interview. The Sundance Film Festival's VR platform is accessible by anyone around the world for a $25 (roughly Rs 1,800) Explorer Pass and logging on to a website. The Engadget report says that the platform looks like you're stepping into a cinephile version of Second Life on a typical computer. However, if users put on a VR Headset like the Oculus Quest, they will be launched into an immersive WebXR experience.
Sundance worked with a creative studio named Active Theory in order to create this new VR platform. Active Theory's AR work was also featured at Google's I/O event in May 2020.
The report furhter said that Sundance has aimed to capture the global experience of cinema with its new VR platform. The VR avatars are basic, with simple legs and arms, along with bulbous heads, which fills with a visitor's live video feed. All of the VR rooms have spaces to sit and hang out with friends, the Engadget report said.
During its VR event, Sundance is not making its entire slate of films and documentaries available. However, attendees will still be able to watch five special features in Cinema House, a fully realised VR theater. There is also no chat functionality inside the theater.
The Sundance Festival has 14 New Frontier Exhibitions this year. That is less than half of that appeared last year, hinting that some creators aren't ready to embrace a virtual festival just yet.