Virtual reality makes a splash at Sundance

Insights, Roundups
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The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah is abuzz with people talking about virtual reality. Attendees are raving about their experiences with virtual reality projects like Birdly (a flight simulator taking you above San Francisco), Project Syria (where you experience a bombing on a Syrian street), and Lost (an animated movie from the Oculus Rift Story Studio).

Why are film geeks obsessing about virtual reality? Simply put, VR has the potential to turn watching a film into experiencing a film.


“Ocular evolution really is a leap in the ability of storytellers to bring the viewer inside the frame of the storyworld,” explains filmmaker turned transmedia curator Shari Frilot, who in 2007 started the Sundance exhibit-cum-incubator New Frontier

Last week, New Frontier hosted a panel called ‘A new language in filmmaking: virtual reality’ which featured music video director Chris Milk, animator Saschka Unseld, filmmaker Rose Troche, interaction designer Max Rheiner, and animator Glen Keane. We were particularly struck by the discussion about empathy, access and storytelling in virtual reality. Here are some of the takeaways.

On empathy and immersion

The challenges for virtual reality filmmakers

Democratization and access


Thanks to Ingrid Kopp of the Tribeca Film Institute for tweeting about the panel.


Credit: Google Cardboard



Storybench’s editor is Aleszu Bajak, a science journalist and former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He is an alum of Science Friday, the founder of, and is passionate about breaking down the divide between journalists, developers and designers.

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