The rise of virtual reality at film festivals

3 min read

virtual reality headset

If the art of film didn’t change with new technology, thought processes, and public fascinations, it wouldn’t be as amazing as it is. But it’s always a bit of a surprise when something new and foreign bursts onto the scene.

Naysayers conservatively hold to the older forms of art — typically what they grew up on and what changed their lives and challenged them. They have achieved the ultimate form of enlightenment in cinema, and they don’t need your new gizmos or perspectives on the world at large. Yet, the craft proceeds in adapting because those who make it know that innovation is the only way to stay relevant, period.

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the newest forms of technology being used in film, creating an entryway for moviegoers into the world movie characters live in. It’s a technology that has serious untapped potential to attract curious eyes everywhere. Recently, it’s begun to make waves at film festivals. Film experts are learning to embrace it, and we can only assume we’ll see more of it at these festivals in the future. The industry is ready, but is the mass market prepared to make the leap?

The presence of virtual reality in the film industry

VR is developing a presence in the film industry, generating some buzz at some of the biggest film festivals. For instance, Sundance showcased its first VR film, “Spheres” in 2018. And who could forget the Virtual Cinema at SXSW in 2019, which featured 25 VR-based projects? Film executives and forward thinkers are learning to bring VR to the experience of film, which is very important for a couple reasons.

One, movie-going and watching is as much a social experience as it is an introspective one. It is something that invites you to embrace it as an individual, but also engage with it as part of a community. Virtual reality, on the other hand, has always been an isolating experience. But at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, there was a VR film called “Cave” which allowed up to 16 people to explore a movie in a social virtual space. This shows that it is possible that there are ways to experience movies through VR in a communal way.

Secondly, the relatability of movie plots and characters could be increased through this technology. Suddenly, you’re not just watching the protagonists and judging their thoughts and actions from behind a screen; you’re standing beside them and seeing that world in a new way. You’re not wondering what you would do from a first person-perspective because you’re right there with them.

Investing in a VR film future

Major film executives are taking notice of what they might be able to do with the VR. Variety reported that there were seven VR centers set up by IMAX around the time “Spheres” made its appearance at Sundance. What’s more, all seven were in major cities that IMAX produces movies within, meaning they are probably investing heavily in VR use for new film projects.

With all of the other examples of various parties expanding VR’s uses, Hollywood has to take notice of the potential of the prospect of actual VR theaters. One such theater was opened in Amsterdam by Samhound Media. Mashable reported that at the time of its opening, they weren’t really showing “movies” per se, but with film festivals and critics taking notice, it could only be a matter of time.

This leaves forward-thinking film investors to make a choice: Do they invest in VR technology or not? They may have to invest in it just to keep up with competition like IMAX. We will probably see more film firms openly investing in this rapidly growing technology as time goes on.

A life of virtual advancements

It’s better to be someone who is able to appreciate a new experience than someone who tries in vain to guard the art of film from new advancements. Don’t underestimate the increasing popularity of this technology. Film is only one industry that is seeing this change. VR’s place in film only follows its seat in general life, and there are a lot of ways that it will become commonplace.

For instance, VR is making its place in the world in ways that appeal to older generations as well. Through its ability to create new experiences with people, it is being used in some exposure therapies for people who deal with PTSD, which is a condition that particularly affects veterans. Without a doubt, it will be a key factor for bringing back online gambling as well. You can’t get away from VR anymore — it’s here to stay.

VR isn’t just going to be a part of film, but of life. It’s making appearances at Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and it will continue to be a presence in the future. It’s helping those with real problems and saving industries that were losing steam. The potential of VR is vast for the movie-going experience. You can’t get rid of it, so you might as well embrace it.

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