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Installation artist Lynette Wallworth experiments with various VR storytelling techniques to create a sense of “here” in transporting the viewer into the remote Australian wilderness for “Collisions,” about the perspectives of an ancient tribal culture and modern technology. And Chris Milk’s “Waves of Grace” and “Evolution of Verse” — both available for download through the VRSE app, so you can experience them outside of the festival — are stunning examples of presence in immersive 360-doc journalism and an exploration of weaving a breathtaking visual story in VR to evoke an emotional response, respectively.


Whether the pop around VR storytelling at Sundance 2016 is harbinger of a coming sea change in the future of immersive storytelling remains to be seen, and depends greatly upon the first waves of consumer content in VR and how audiences react to the kind of stories artists want to tell. But this is the first year in over a decade of covering Sundance that I’ve heard this much buzz on the ground — or any buzz at all, really — about virtual reality. The long waitlists at New Frontier to check out VR experiences at the fest, and the domineering fest chatter around Park City about VR in restaurants, in bars, on the shuttles, in lines, all point to a lot of interest in storytelling in VR. The presence of tech press covering New Frontier at Sundance this year is another key indicator of where the future is heading. If you missed that VR was a big thing at Sundance this year, you maybe weren’t paying full attention.

Yes, we’re a good decade or two, technologically speaking, from the kind of fully immersive, ultimate, “holodeck”-inspired cinematics experiences of which we dream, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a relevant evolution of storytelling happening within the space right now that’s worth paying attention to. Virtual reality — the story and the tech — is a field that’s evolving rapidly, almost daily, and as we look ahead to the next decade, Frilot and New Frontier will be there, showcasing artists who continue to innovate the way we tell stories in VR.

PHOTO: PETE BRUNDLE, INDIEWIRE/FUTURE TENSE
PHOTO: PETE BRUNDLE, INDIEWIRE/FUTURE TENSE