Virtual Reality is still somewhat in it’s infancy, and that opens it up to a wide range of criticisms from skeptics. With every new major advance in technology, we are going to have those that try to detract from the excitement of what could be game changing storytelling mediums. The very fact that to this day we’re still arguing the efficacy of digital vs. film, is a testament to the dedication of these skeptics.
I think that the problem with the debates, arguments and conversations we have about this subject stem from a great misunderstanding, or misrepresentation. There are very few people who wish for Virtual Reality to be the only storytelling medium, or people who think that physical film doesn’t have it’s merits. When we talk about these new technologies, we should speak with the understanding that we should also be preserving, and doing justice to the past.
In no place is tradition cherished and simultaneously disregarded as the independent film festival circuit. It’s pretty hard to call Sundance, “independent” nowadays, but at it’s heart, that’s the goal of the festival – To invite artists to take chances and do things that Hollywood isn’t prepared to do.
Virtual Reality is in a similar place in it’s young life. They can’t be considered, “independent” when companies like Samsung and Sony are at the bleeding edge of the tech, but the way that stories are being told is being re-imagined in ways that recall this independent film mentality..
So it makes sense that Sundance would be embracing this form of storytelling. This year, Sundance displayed and previewed several different stories, using Virtual Reality technology. In doing so, they’ve taken the first step to introducing this medium to wider, more mainstream audiences. This only verifies what many have been saying for a while, Virtual Reality will be a legitimate storytelling medium, and it’s going to happen sooner than you think.
Virtual Reality Used to Be All About Tech. Sundance Hints It’s Becoming a Medium
VR already made a big splash at Sundance in 2015. But VR experiences were really just that last year — isolated titles that let viewers experience the allure of presence, of being in the middle of it all. This year, filmmakers and VR producers started to take the next step, and further explore the possibilities of storytelling. In other words: VR wasn’t just a technology anymore, but a medium, albeit a nascent one.
Take “Defrost,” for example, the Sci-Fi VR drama by “Grease” director Randal Kleiser. Not only does it use the modalities of mobile VR — which offers presence in a kind of paralyzed way, because the headset doesn’t know when you are moving around — as a part of story, which is told from the POV of a woman who just awoke from a coma. But it also pushes the envelope on serialized VR storytelling, with a full season in development, and plans for a second and possibly even third season already on Kleiser’s drawing board.
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(cover photo credit: snap from Variety via ANDREW RYBALKO / SHUTTERSTOCK)