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Tribeca Film Fest To Star VR

It’s possible that Tribeca Film Festival’s Loren Hammonds, Programmer, Film Immersive, has the best job in the interactive media industry. He spends the year scouring the globe, visiting producers, developers, artists, and arts festivals for the very best virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Arden’s Wake part 2: Tide’s Fall

The Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade lineup this year includes 35 experiences, including 27 world premiere VR/AR exhibits, and five Storyscapes experiences in competition. The program takes place at the Tribeca Festival Hub from April 20–28. The Festival is also introducing Tribeca Cinema360, featuring four curated screening programs of 360° Mobile Content in a VR Theater, running April 21–28. The 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival itself takes place April 18–29, 2018.

Loren Hammonds, Programmer, Film & Immersive, Tribeca Film Festival.

Hammonds is a thoughtful curator, as I wrote in my review of 2017’s festivaland does an incredible service to all of us. Because of his efforts, we can simply walk in and experience the state of the art of making VR, AR, 360 videos and every combination thereof as artists create new experiences that tell stories and explore the human experience through new media.

In its ten year history, Tribeca Immersive has grown exponentially. Its vast selection is impossible to take in on one visit. Plan accordingly. Last year I experienced a dozen VR pieces — one-third of the offerings — in three hours. The diversity of the Immersive Arcade is striking. Last year I caught Scatter Studios’ groundbreaking multimedia VR experience, “Blackout”, “Bebylon Battle Royale” a crazy multi-player game by LA-based Kite and Lightning, in which users are giant babies placed in an arena where they drive hovercars and trade punches, and part one of Penrose Studios’ “Arden’s Wake”. Part two, “Tides Fall”, is featured in this year’s Festival.

Untitled OK Go & WITHIN Project

In an interview last month, Hammonds told me his curation this year was “more serious, tackling real topics, experiences of other worlds, and timely cultural stories. In these serious times, artists are taking on serious subjects like racism (“1,000 Cut Journey”), climate change (“This is Climate Change”), immigration and xenophobia (“Terminal 3”), nuclear war (“The Day The World Changed”) and HIV/AIDS (“Queerskins: a love story”).” In addition, the lineup includes programming that allows visitors to become active participants in experiences like swimming with sharks (“Into the Now”), caring for a baby elephant (“My Africa”), and being caught in a bombing raid (“Hero”).

“objects in mirror AR closer than they appear” [sic] is an interactive new media installation based on the critically-acclaimed theatrical performance THE OBJECT LESSON.

Asad J. Malik hologram in line. From Terminal 3.

“Terminal 3” is a world premiere AR experience by Asad J. Malik that uses the Microsoft HoloLens to cast the viewer an American immigration officer interrogating middle eastern travelers to determine their fate.

“Star Child”, by Paul Bettner, also receiving its World Premiere, is among the most “realistic” or cinematic narrative adventures in the Festival. It takes the viewer to an unexplored planet as a member of a starship crew which is soon threatened by a menacing alien force. This experience plays with scale and uses a technique common to game production, avatareering to control a virtual character.

A still from “Star Child”

Another dramatic narrative, “Dinner Party”, by Angel Manuel Soto, Charlotte Stoudt, and Laura Wexler, tells the story of Betty and Barney Hill, an interracial couple who made the first report of a UFO abduction in America in 1961. Having sought hypnosis to recover memories of their inexplicable experience, the Hills decided to listen to the recording of their session during a dinner party. Weirdness ensues. The experience takes place in a theatrical setting created exclusively for Tribeca.

“Many of these experiences ask fundamental questions about what’s real and what’s virtual,” Hammonds told me. “The definition of game and story continue to blur.”

“Many of these experiences ask fundamental questions about what’s real and what’s virtual,” Hammonds told me. “The definition of game and story continue to blur.”

“The Day the World Changed” (also a World Premiere) by Gabo Arora and Saschka Unseld uses the HTC Vive’s room scale tracking to situate participants in the ruins of Hiroshima after the bomb, allowing them to witness testimony from survivors and survey the nuclear arms race through immersive, interactive data visualization. “The Day the World Changed” brings the harrowing impressions of the victims of the atomic bombing to viewers through a combination of 3-D scanning and photogrammetry.

Another must-see is Eliza McNitt’s “SPHERES: Pale Blue Dot,” the second installment of the Spheres series, which was acquired at the Sundance Film Festival for a seven-figure sum, a first for a VR experience. The fifteen-minute World Premiere experience is a cosmic journey from the edge of the universe to our “pale blue dot.” The experience uncovers echoes of the Big Bang as it gazes back in time.

A still from Vacation Simulator.

The Immersive Arcade also has a lighter side. “Vacation Simulator”, the follow up to one of VR’s genuine hits, “Job Simulator” returns participants to the world of Owlchemy Labs, where they visit Vacation Island and experience “recreation,” optimal “relaxation,” and “sunburn”, helping visitors rediscover the lost art of “time off.”

The Untitled OK Go & WITHIN Project receiving its World Premiere) at Tribeca was created by Chris Milk and Damian Kulash and is produced by WITHIN, OK Go, and Oculus. Pairs of participants enter an abstract environment where they collaborate to create music with contraptions, friendly animals, and robots, ultimately creating their own original song.

Finally, the Festival just announced the addition of the yet another world premiere “Jack: Part One” from Emmy-Award winning Baobab Studios, creators of “Invasion!”, “Asteroids” and “Rainbow Crow”, which was featured in the Festival last year. “Jack: Part One” takes users into the world of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairytale.

A full list of Tribeca Immersive’s offerings can be found here.

Tribeca Immersive takes place in the Tribeca Festival Hub located at Spring Studios — 50 Varick Street. Admission to presentations of the Virtual Arcade featuring Storyscapes is $40.00. Screening tickets for Cinema360 screenings are $15. Tickets can be purchased online at beginning March 27 or by telephone at (646) 502–5296 or toll-free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Packages and passes are now available for purchase on the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival App on iTunes and Google Play.

This post was originally featured on on April 02, 2018

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