Sundance’s New Frontier program, the yearly showcase supported by the Sundance Institute for works in new media, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2016. Over 30 virtual reality installations will be present within New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival.
The New Frontier program has been host to VR experiences since Nonny de la Peña’s 2012 Hunger in Los Angeles, interestingly presented on a homemade VR headset during a time before the initial release of the Oculus Rift DK1. The number of VR installations has steadily grown in the following years—a testament to the industry’s shift towards consumer virtual reality.
33 VR experiences will be available to festival-goers checking out New Frontier at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which takes place January 21-31, 2016 in Park City, Utah. Games, 360 videos, and rendered experiences will be playable on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift DK2, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard. We’ve provided download links for the experiences that are currently available on Oculus DK2 and Cardboard.
We’ll be following the New Frontier’s VR experiences throughout the Sundance Film Festival, so check back for more info in January.
1The Leviathan Project
It’s 1895, and you’re in a scientific lab inside a massive flying whale. This augmented-reality-to-VR setting, based on Scott Westerfield’s best-selling trilogy Leviathan, lets participants engage physically and emotionally with the setting and with human and animal characters. The best part is the ability to fabricate a brand-new creature.
Artists – Alex McDowell, Bradley Newman; Key Collaborator: World Building Media Lab
Cast – Gildart Jackson, Isabella Schloss, Austin Nimnict, A.J. Helfet, Ellis Greer, Alex Ho
2Real Virtuality: Immersive Explorers
A multiuser immersive platform that combines motion capture with virtual reality headsets allows users to move freely within the physical space, interact with objects and other participants, and virtually visit 3-D interactive environments.
Artists – Sylvain Chagué, Caecilia Charbonnier; Key Collaborators: Bart Kevelham, David Hodgetts
Cast – Gilles Jobin, Susana Panades Diaz
#100humans is the story of the first humans who walked through 8i’s doors to help invent a new medium. Using 3-D video technology to record real people for VR, this story explores a new level of emotional connections and sense of presence that brings viewers the most lifelike intimate experience.
Artists – Daniel Schechter, Linc Gasking, Rainer Gombos; Key Collaborators: Preya McMahon, Alexander Burke, Christina Webber
Cast – Ashley Martin Scott, Logan Paul, Young Guru, Denise Garcia, Brent Bushnell
Encounter an 80-foot blue whale while experiencing the awe, wonder, and majesty of underwater habitats, designed as beautiful moments in passing or a collection of memories.
Artists – Jake Rowell, Neville Spiteri, Ben Vance
theBlu: The Encounter demo can be experienced on HTC Vive. Check out our hands-on article!
In this futuristic, sci-fi virtual reality adventure, viewers are put in the seat of a woman who wakes up after being frozen for nearly 30 years to reunite with her family. The reunion is bittersweet, as the passage of time has caused her loved ones to become strangers.
Artist – Randal Kleiser; Key Collaborator: Tanna Frederick
Cast – Carl Weathers, Bruce Davison, Tanna Frederick, Christopher Atkins, Ethan Rains, Clinton Valencia
Uniquely designed for room-scale VR, this interactive art experience gives the viewer an intimate connection to the possibilities and wonders of space, where mysterious phenomena, hidden beauty, and the infinite await.
Artist – Ben Vance; Key Collaborators: Sam Bird, Joel Corelitz
Irrational Exuberance is coming soon to HTC Vive.
This experience of manning an office cubicle is a unique blend of storytelling, comedy, and intuitive game mechanics that focuses on micro-interactions. Pick up a tomato, smash a glass, and explore a sandbox world with childlike wonder, while ignoring established gaming systems.
Artists – Alex Schwartz, Devin Reimer
Job Simulator is coming to soon HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR.
8The Martian VR Experience
Step into the shoes of astronaut Mark Watney as he performs tasks that will facilitate his chances for survival and rescue. Viewers can fly onto the surface of Mars, steer at zero gravity through space, and drive a rover, deepening the experience of key scenes from Ridley Scott’s hit film, The Martian.
Artists – Robert Stromberg, Ridley Scott; Key Collaborators: Fox Innovation Lab, RSA Films, VRC
The Martian VR Experience preview is currently available on Samsung Gear VR’s Milk VR application.
A teenage girl becomes guardian of the last city on Earth to change its fate by fusing her instinctive knowledge of nature with an AI’s benevolence, analysis, and foresight. This interactive animated series made for virtual reality relies on your focus for the story to evolve.
Artists – Emilie Joly, Sylvain Joly, Michaël Martin; Key Collaborators: Maria Beltran Reyes, John Howe, Richard Johnson
Cast – Peter Coyote, Morgan Burch
When a drone receives a faint distress call emerging from an unknown asteroid, it journeys to locate the source of the signal and ventures into a deep, ancient labyrinth that holds a secret even darker than space itself.
Artists – Philipp Maas, Dominik Stockhausen
A virtual reality collaboration between Vrse.works creator Andrew Thomas Huang and Björk explores the possibilities that VR holds for performance platforms outside of the traditional music video world.
Artist – Andrew Thomas Huang; Key Collaborator: Björk Guðmundsdóttir
Cast – Björk
An abstract meditation on the evolutionary process and its relentless march towards complexity, this virtual reality music video was produced over the course of a year, with Arjan van Meertan creating all of the music, animation, and code himself.
Artist – Arjan van Meerten
13The Unknown Photographer
This immersive documentary unveils a journey into the heart of the First World War through hundreds of photographs that were found in the abandoned workshop of a country house in Quebec, Canada.
Artists – Loic Suty, Osman Zeki, Claudine Matte; Key Collaborators: Catherine Mavrikakis, François Lafontaine
Cast – Julian Casey, François Papineau
14Waves of Grace
In this experience viewers are transported to the most populous slum in the capital city of Liberia, where Decontee Davis, an Ebola survivor, uses her immunity to help others affected by the disease.
Artists – Gabo Arora, Chris Milk; Key Collaborators: Imraan Ismail, Samantha Storr, Patrick Milling Smith
Cast – Decontee Davis
15The Abbot’s Book
Four generations of an Italian noble family are cursed by the corrupt power of an ancient book unearthed from the catacombs beneath their estate. Rich with traditional gothic-inspired mythology, the story follows a scion of this cursed family attempting to shield his heirs from the inevitable darkness.
Artists – Michael Conelly, Lyndon Barrois; Key Collaborators: Keith Goldfarb, William Telford Cast: JB Blanc
Reggie Watts weaves a virtual reality story that is a dream-within-a-dream meta-ride down the rabbit hole, where the only constants seem to be his philosophical musings, comedic insights, and musical genius.
Artists – Benjamin Dickinson, Reggie Watts, Luis Blackaller; Key Collaborators: Anthony Batt, Neville Spiteri
Cast – Reggie Watts, Nathalie Emmanuel
Trapped in an active war zone, two parents struggle to distract their young daughter by inventing a fantastical tale. Inspired by true events, this immersive VR experience transports the viewer to the family’s makeshift basement shelter. As the bombs draw closer and closer, the parents’ fairy tale intensifies.
Artists – Milica Zec, Winslow Porter; Key Collaborators: E.A. Donahue, Jack Caron, Todd Bryant
Cast – Zoë Winters, Clem Mcintosh, Jordana Rose
186×9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement
Right now, more than 80,000 people are locked in tiny concrete boxes where every element of their environment is controlled. They are confined to spaces with no human contact, and the sensory deprivation they endure causes severe psychological damage. These people are invisible to us—and eventually to themselves.
Artists – The Guardian; Key Collaborators: Lindsay Poulton, Francesca Panetta
19Across the Line
This immersive VR experience puts the audience on the scene with anti-abortion extremists trying to intimidate patients seeking sexual and reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Using documentary footage and a montage of real audio, viewers gain intimate knowledge of the harassment outside and compassion inside health centers across the country.
Artists – Nonny de la Peña, Brad Lichtenstein, Jeff Fitzsimmons Cast: Samantha Collier, Kristina Nailen, Raegan McDonald-Mosley MD, Charles Gilbert, Lee Sherman, Joe Spence
A virtual reality experiment questions the ethics of artificial-intelligence algorithms in self-driving cars when they are faced with difficult decisions during an unavoidable crash event. Given varied cultural and individual ethics, who should be designing these algorithms, and how should they be chosen?
Artists – Vincent McCurley, Loc Dao
Journey to a remote desert in western Australia that is home to indigenous leader Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe. Nyarri’s first contact with Western culture was in the 1950s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of modern technology.
Artist – Lynette Wallworth
Cast – Nyarri Nyarri Morgan, Curtis Taylor
Encounter a majestic jaguar deep in the jungle, lie with a nesting sea turtle on a windy beach, and fly with monarch butterflies, all before they disappear. This powerful virtual reality experience is a glimpse into the habitats of Earth’s endangered species.
Artists – Danfung Dennis, Casey Brown, Phil McNally; Key Collaborators: Jay Brown, Andrew Delpit, Chris McClanahan
Fall down the rabbit hole and experience the magical and vibrant digital world of the Royal National Theater’s wonder.land stage show. Watch and listen with VR technology as the Cheshire cat hovers above like a magnificent holographic airship while serenading you to “Fabulous,” a song from the show.
Artists – Toby Coffey, Lysander Ashton, Ollie Lindsey; Key Collaborator: Mahdi Yahya
Cast – Hal Fowler
24Hard World for Small Things
A day in the life of a tight-knit community in South Central Los Angeles.
Artist – Janicza Bravo
Cast – Keith Stanfield, Brandon Scott, Hannah Heller, Idara Victor, Jodie Smith
25A History of Cuban Dance
Organic, spontaneous, sexy dances progress chronologically through Afro-Cuban Santería rumba, mambo, cha-cha-chá, salsa, breakdancing, and reggaeton, with optional audio tracks reflecting the broader story of Cuban history as revealed in the moves. This live-action virtual reality documentary was filmed on location in Cuba and features Ballet de la Televisión Cubana.
Artist – Lucy Walker
Cast – Ballet de la Televisión Cubana
In this harrowing virtual reality story of a real-life domestic violence homicide, two sisters engage in a doomed struggle to save the third from being shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Utilizing audio and imagery captured at the real event, this piece transforms the audience from viewers to active witnesses.
Artist – Nonny de la Peña; Key Collaborator: Emblematic Group
Cast – Lee Sherman, Toyin Moses, Tripp Pickell, Diana Toshiko
Witness the Maasai tribe’s living heritage in the village of Enkutoto, Kenya, through repeated walkabout visuals in the Great Rift Valley. Watch jumping-dance competitions, the men’s unmatched hunting abilities, and the women’s skills in building mud houses, long-distance water collection, and bead artwork.
Artists – Felix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphael; Key Collaborator: Stephane Rituit
28Nomads: Sea Gypsies
In this episode of Nomads, viewers share the Bajau tribe’s nomadic existence on crammed houseboats that sway to the motion of river waters. Watch as the families travel with fellow boat-dwelling relatives, always sharing a communal spirit.
Artists – Felix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphael; Key Collaborators: Stephane Rituit, Jean-Pascal Beaudoin
29Notes on Blindness—Into Darkness
After losing his sight in 1983, John Hull began to record an audio-diary documenting his discovery of “a world beyond sight.” Hull’s original recordings form the basis of this interactive documentary, which uses real-time 3-D, virtual reality, and binaural sound to explore the world of the blind.
Artists – Arnaud Colinart, Amaury Laburthe, Peter Middleton, James Spinney; Key Collaborators: Arnaud Desjardins, Béatrice Lartigue, Fabien Togman
Cast – John Hull
30Perspective 2: The Misdemeanor
When two men are stopped by a police officer, a simple misdemeanor spirals out of control, turning the situation rapidly antagonistic. With each party suspecting the other, no one is able to stop the chain of events that follows.
Artists – Rose Troche, Morris May; Key Collaborator: Charles Ottaway
Cast – Shemar Jonas, Javon Jones, Joey Auzenne, Johnny Tchaikovsky
31The Rose and I
An immersive, animated VR film crafted by the artists, hackers and storytellers of Penrose Studios, The Rose and I is about loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. Come meet a lonely Rose living in the unlikeliest of places, and be transported into a brand new universe. Cast: Rachael Bigelow.
Artists – Eugene Chung, Jimmy Maidens, Alex Woo; Key Collaborators: Terry Kaleas, Ryan Shore, Nick Sung
Be careful where you look because someone or something doesn’t want you here. Otherworld presents two chapters in their popular horror series. Experience two sets of thrills and chills as you physically walk through a haunted house and experience a virtual reality ghost story that will scare your pants off.
Artists – Robyn Gray, Andrew Goldstein, Michael Murdock; Key Collaborator: Philip Eberhart
Cast – Julia Chalker, Greg Vogt
Three women and four men, all naked, appear out of nowhere in the white, sunny space of a bright room outside of time. They meet, touch, share their energy, and are transformed spiritually; they let themselves become one with the world.
Artists – Michel Reilhac, Carl Guyenette; Key Collaborators: Mélanie Le Grand, Xavier Servas, Sebastian Shorter
Cast – Amador Jojo, Ayoti, Christophe De La Pointe, De La Fouquette, Flozif, Yumie Volupté