This year’s NewImages Festival wrapped up over the weekend in Paris, France. The four-day festival is “the world’s only festival dedicated to VR, digital creation, and immersive technology”, according to the event organizers. A lot went on at the festival including product releases, special announcements, awards, workshops, and keynote addresses.
I can’t hope to cover everything but here are some of the highlights.
An Immersive Experience Competition
The festival featured its own immersive experience competition, with judging by a distinguished panel. The top prize, the Golden Mask Award, went to Gloomy Eyes. Gloomy Eyes is a VR short film about a world where the sun refuses to shine. Created by an international team, the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
A special prize by the jury went to Wolves in the Walls: It’s All Over. The American-made interactive story follows an eight-year-old whose imagination comes to life.
Finally, special mention went to 7 Lives. Another international collaboration, 7 Lives is an interactive story of a spirit that tries to find peace by exploring the memories of those who witnessed her death.
Immersive Technology Displays and Events
The judges weren’t the only ones who got to interact with the immersive technology on display. There were immersive events every day of the festival, both on the main grounds and offsite.
Visitors also had the ability to attend a viewing of the interactive film République. The film follows four seemingly unrelated plotlines brought together when the characters in each witness the same terrorist attack.
Two concerts were also held in celebration of immersive entertainment than can be enjoyed together and without headsets.
Expert Addresses and Panel Discussions
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The last two days of the festival were packed with round-table discussions and industry talks. These events were only open to credentialed professionals in the immersive technology industry.
Denise Woo of VeeR VR gave a talk on the distribution and monetization of VR content. Mariana Irazu of 1RIC spoke on how immersive technology changes the ways in which we tell stories. Zillah Watson of the BBC talked about using new technologies to attract new audiences. A keynote by Kaleidoscope founder and CEO, René Pinnell, addressed the challenges and opportunities of funding art. Another key note by artist Hsin-Chien Huang spoke to the power that VR gives to artists to create their own worlds. Vicki Dobbs Beck of ILMxLAB gave the final address on the “transition from story-telling to story-living”.
The celebration and exploration that took place at the NewImages Festival was a breath of fresh air. That’s especially true after the limited VR representations at this year’s E3, which disappointed the audience.
The NewImages Festival wasn’t just a trade show. Industry talks looked at creating, distributing, and profiting from VR but more importantly the festival addressed how we use VR. People usually consider immersive technology as the thing of the future. However, when applied to the most basic human tendency to tell stories, it feels more like a natural part of who we are.