Virtual Reality Hits Sundance

Anyone who’s had the fortune to try on the Oculus Rift (with access to the proper processing power) understands how incredibly thrilling virtual reality can be. Although it’s been said that virtual reality will change the AV game for a long, long time, it seems that social media and advance technology might finally be in a position to bring that prediction into fruition.

If you’re skeptical, just ask Sundance Film Festival goers what they thought of the VR content that was shown there.

vrsdOne startup firm called 8i created a brief film for VR that was offered as a test run to anyone daring enough to try on the bulky helmet and goggles. 8i created a visually stunning movie called “The Climb” that brings viewers to the edge of a cliff that’s hundreds of feet up. A valley below has little to break your fall but a snaking river off in the distance. Someone repeatedly shouts at the viewer to jump, pitting their brain against their knowledge that the simulation is exactly that… just a simulation.

“Your logical side is saying, ‘I’m in a headset. I’m in this room.’ Bur your emotional side is saying, ‘I’m on a cliff. I could die here. I don’t want to jump,'” said 8i cofounder and CEO Linc Gasking.

And he’s not the only VR film maker in the industry. According to Nokia Technologies president Ramzi Haidamus, the development of VR movies has been in the works for years. Haidamus is responsible for leading the OZO project, which yielded the first VR camera designed for professional filmmakers. As someone who has been experimenting with VR filmmaking for years, Haidamus knows what he’s talking about when he says that the industry has been heating up fast as of late. He says that there’s a general thirst among the population to become more connected to movies, and that VR’s decreasing price and increasing technology is going to push the industry further this year than it has ever gone.

“I couldn’t jump,” Haidamus said of 8i’s ‘The Climb.’

VR sundance2The maker of ‘The Climb’ could only agree with Haidamus’ observations regarding the VR industry:

“Four years ago the price of a pair of headsets were $40,000. And four years later you can use a Google cardboard or the like to watch these sorts of experiences. That’s an incredible change,” he noted.

“With a much cheaper price tag, filmmakers are finally getting the tools that they need to experiment with VR.”

The much-awaited Oculus Rift is set to come out in March and cost only $600. Unfortunately, the processing power necessary to actually play Rift games without issue is going to cost the average user significantly more than that.

“The industry needs a new way (more moviegoers) to consume more immersive content without having to go to a theater,” Haidamus said, highlighting yet another way that VR will help to cross some industry divides that have gone long stretches without innovation. He noted that many film studies are partnering with companies like Nokia to produce more VR content.

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