Virtual Reality was by far the hottest technology topic at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival last weekend in Park City, Utah. Sundance’s New Frontier program highlights experimental storytelling, and they hosted a VR Bar next to the main Sundance Film Festival ticket office in Park City, Utah last weekend. Everyone from Google to Nokia to Catdance spotlighted their latest VR content at the festival this year.
To take you there, here are three VR experiences at Sundance 2016. Using your smartphone and Google Cardboard ($19.99 on Amazon), anyone can easily access VR and 360 videos. All you need to do is download your favorite VR apps to your phone, insert the phone into Google Cardboard, and you are ready to go.
1. Google Cardboard VR Party – Google showcased it’s latest #SpotlightSeries content at the New Frontier VR Bar at Sundance. This animated content was designed by Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects group), who makes “epic” stuff. This VR 360 experience had cartoon characters ice-skating, and flying in airplanes. To get the full VR experience, you want to turn around in your chair while watching, and it will really feel like you are skating in the video. Everyone was laughing with big grins as they watched. Google also had headsets plugged into the phones to provide the best audio experience.
When we spoke to Aaron Luber, Google VR/Cardboard Partnerships, he explained, “We want to show how this new content is really advanced now versus the first VR content.” For Sundance, a limited artist edition of Google Cardboard designed by New Frontier Festival and Story Lab alum Yung Lee was available for everyone at this New Frontier VR Bar.
2. Nokia OZO 360 VR Camera Party – When we went to the Nokia VR party at the VR Bar, they were showcasing their 8-lens VR camera called OZO for filmmakers that is being released this quarter. When we interviewed Guido Voltolina of Nokia Technologies, he explained, “OZO is a camera to shoot in 360 3D, both audio and video. There are eight camera modules that cover the whole 360, two layers of pixels in order to have 3D, and then eight microphones for the special audio.” You could see monitors with the eight-camera lens on the big screen. When asked about the response to OZO by filmmakers, Guido expanded, “The reaction has been very fantastic…. This camera was designed specifically to shoot VR versus using 2D cameras.”
In this New Frontier VR Bar, Nokia also showed some of the OZO content produced in the past two months. Their VR content included four segments ranging from a rock concert to someone pulling you towards them via a string that was really a “wow” experience. OZO is a named after a character’s “point of view” with personality, and their content definitely was lively. Guido also told us about “Defrost” that is a project filmed with OZO that was shown at Sundance 2016.
3. Catdance Film Festival Party – During the fourth annual Catdance Film Festival, everyone got a chance to look at their VR experience using Google Cardboard with a cat design at Cisero’s on Main Street. In addition to screening the best in feline films at Catdance, everyone watched a fun virtual reality experience presented by new Fresh Step® with the Power of Febreze™. It was a blast to check out this VR content showing life as an adopted cat in “Lost & Found: A Cat’s Eye View of Adoption.” Through the eyes of a cat, the viewer can see a cat go from one box to the next, and eventually meet the family who adopts them. To learn more, watch our VIDEO: Hannah Simone (“New Girl”) backstage at Catdance at Sundance 2016.
If you want to check out this VR content, all you need is Google Cardboard, a smartphone and VR apps downloaded. It will be fascinating to see where all this new VR technology takes us from a technology and filmmaking perspective. There were also more advanced VR viewing options at this VR Bar such as Oculus Rift, and another guy was proud to share that he runs the “VR Club” in Salt Lake City, Utah.
© @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist 2016