Virtual Reality at the Sundance Film Festival

VR Content Is on a Path to Becoming Professional

Sundance_VR_lIn 2015, CCS Insight wrote about the growing influence of virtual reality (VR) at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah (see Daily Insight: Virtual Reality Making the Rounds). The venue tends to be a leading indicator for technology as well as talent, and we identified about a dozen VR movies making the rounds.

The number of such entries has more than doubled in 2016, with over 24 VR films. The technology has the ability to transport audiences into a different world, allowing them to see content from different angles to offer a fresh experience with every viewing. The films are more difficult to create, but the results can breathtaking when recorded and watched on decent hardware.

The devices for making and viewing VR have matured in the past few years, and the cost to buy VR headsets has steadily declined. A basic Google Cardboard unit is now available for $10 or less (and often given away for free), and more serious devices like the Samsung Gear VR cost $99.

Facebook, owner of virtual reality pioneer Oculus, now supports 360-degree video in its timelines, offering unprecedented reach for this emerging format. Google-owned YouTube also supports 360-degree video, and there were already 30,000 examples hosted via the service at the end of 2015. Users can navigate these unique videos via a mouse or using a finger on the touch screen on Web and mobile devices, creating an immersive experience. There’s no question that VR is going social in 2016.

The technology has also become a way to distribute news. The New York Times recently supplied Google Cardboard sets to more than 1 million of its subscribers, allowing them to access its newly launched VR content.

The excitement about VR at CES 2016 in Las Vegas and the drive toward professional, Hollywood-style VR entertainment from the Sundance festival suggest that this new content consumption medium will gain momentum with consumers during 2016.