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Risk Independence

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, February 3, 2019/Categories: video, art and design, environment, adventure

              Venue Trailer for the Sundance Film Festival 2019 (credit: Sundance Institute)

The showcase for independently films, the Sundance Film Festival, has concluded. The annual 10-day event brings together filmmakers, audiences, distributors and other movie enthusiasts to the mountains of Utah. This year's theme was Risk Independence to celebrate all the diverse talents, ideas, technology, and creativity of visual storytelling. Over 50% of the films in competition this year were produced by women who brought their stories from every continent. The Festival also includes venues for film music, panel discussions, and demonstrations of new technology.


Since the invention of film, movie makers and photographers have always pushed the envelope in applying new techniques. A perfect example at Sundance was the diversity represented by the New Frontier program. It offered an array of evolving approaches including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), digital animation, and other enhanced visual tools. Augmented Reality particularly, is experiencing rapid adoption because of its wide applications. AR is being used not for in filmmaking, but also in medical and architectural applications where manipulation of physical components is now possible.

Two New Frontier AR installations were impressive for their capacity to expand current filmmaking standards. The Dial, was a mystery in multiple dimensions developed by Nightlight Labs. It allowed a viewer to participate in solving a mystery by using a handheld, modified smartphone. Individuals walked around the AR visualization table, looked up, down, and into a building, and to even observe activities occurring under the table. A great advantage of augmented reality is that visualizations can be viewed without needing heavy headsets or goggles. The visuals on the AR c-phone and table were clear with the characters, and their dialog, engaging throughout the short film. Likewise, a computer workstation developed by the Burbank start-up AR-Wall showed how an entire city-scape and its interiors could be designed and manipulated to enhance film stories. Their operational "walls" allows for indepth visuals, interactive experimentation, and film illusions that can be location-based. This AR technology is already being incorporated in various animation projects. One demo on the workstation showed a magic visualized egg from the hit 3D movie, Ready Player One.


    The Dial, AR Murder Mystery (credit: Nightlight Labs)         City-scape Interiors, AR Design Computer (credit: AR-Wall)

While trying the 2019 New Frontier, a memory returned of an earlier Sundance over 20 years ago when New Frontier wasn't even an established program. Back then, a small van had parked along the Festival's main street. Inside two graduate students in computer graphic from the university had projects on their monitors. Anyone could walk into the van and they would run their demos. I asked the two programmers what their studio was called? PIXAR went on to build quite a name for itself. Expect many more films to use AR storytelling to emerge from studios into theaters in coming months.

This is how taking risks pays off at Sundance!



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