Sundance Reached a New Frontier with Virtual Experience



February 3, 2021

Since its launch, the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier programming has showcased innovative work at the crossroads of film, art, and technology. This year’s festival literally reached a new frontier, with an all-digital immersive experience. Sundance worked with the creative studio Active Theory to build its custom platform — complete with avatars, a virtual place to network, and 14 interactive works of art.

Attendees strapped on their VR headsets (or logged into their computer) to experience the fest. Once adding a profile pic to their avatar, users arrived at the main hub. They were greeted with a sleek design and moody music and lighting — creating a cool virtual vibe. They could then select from the following rooms:

New Frontier Gallery

This area hosted a complete slate of content — categorized by AR, mixed media, and computer/web XR areas. Some were experienced on a smartphone, others directed you to their own site, while others required a VR headset.

One of these projects was from Disney! In the StudioLAB portal, you could find Baymax Dreams of Fred’s Glitch. DMED Technology and Disney Television Animation teamed up to create this interactive short, streamed from the cloud using NVIDIA GeForce Now. In fact, it’s the first premium, interactive, 3D-animated content of its kind and is fully remote and rendered with touch interaction. Inspired by “Big Hero 6: The Series,” users could help Fred as he tries to contain an adorable, yet destructive glitch of his own creation that causes havoc in Baymax’s head.

Film Party

This interactive floor was meant for mingling. You could meet other attendees at the virtual bar in their avatar state or be transported to smaller, more intimate rooms through one of six screens. To talk with folks, you entered “chat zones” and could then hear their convos and chime in. 

Approaching groups to introduce yourself felt oddly similar to in-person, pre-COVID networking. And that’s something we can get behind!

Cinema House

As the only VR-exclusive environment, this spot allowed you to watch Sundance films — as if at the fest, but also in the comfort of your own home.

Overall, this year’s New Frontier event was top notch. It was an engaging and unique experience worthy of its name! 

To learn more about the immersive content, check out this Los Angeles Times review.