NewImages Festival, Cannes XR, and Tribeca present XR3, a VR platform bringing together nearly 50 incredible works.
Each selection will be available via the Museum of Other Realities (MOR) in a virtual exhibition space designed especially for this occasion.
Each festival will also host live events throughout their respective locations in Paris, Cannes, and New York, with the NewImages Festival organizing satellite pop-ups across nearly every continent.
To learn more about the collaboration as well as each festival’s unique approach, I caught up with Michael Swierczynski, Director of NewImages Festival; Guillaume Esmiol, Deputy Director of Cannes’ Marché du Film; and Loren Hammonds, Vice President of Immersive Programming of the Tribeca Festival.
Cannes XR Bridges the Gap Between XR and Cinema
When I attended the first-ever Cannes XR back in 2020, the virtual event had its fair share of technical difficulties, but also many unforgettable experiences and learnings for the entire community.
“The philosophy of Cannes XR is about exploring these new formats of storytelling and narrative content,” said Deputy Director Esmiol.
The 2021 Cannes XR festival will take place in two parts.
“Starting June 9th, we will introduce ‘XR3’ a specially-designed VR environment to showcase the best VR narrative content. Then from July 6th-15th, Cannes XR will benefit from the momentum of the Marché du Film at the Festival de Cannes by connecting the cinema industry with the XR community.”
Among the three partners for XR3, the Cannes Marche du Film is uniquely a marketplace focusing on film. Under the Cannes Marche du Film banner, there is also Cannes XR for networking, financing, and distribution opportunities, as well as Cannes NEXT.
“Cannes NEXT is about innovation in the industry. It’s about the technology that connects film with XR, enhancing partnerships and fostering business opportunities,” explained Esmoil, adding, “There will be conference sessions about distribution, filming, and virtual production, also covering the creation of synthetic content, game engines, and even digital humans. The XR community are really experts on that.”
“The acceleration of innovation coming from the video game industry is being driven by real-time game engines, like Unreal and Unity, primarily used in XR and video games, and now more and more in the cinema industry.”
“It’s not only for post-production and special effects. There are digital settings that you can see during production. The director can see in real time how the production looks live. It’s also pre-production, creating the digital setting first. The director can work out where to put the camera. It’s really similar to what the XR community is doing.”
When it comes to remote production, Esmiol said, “You can send a few people to shoot an area and digitize it in a VR environment, and another team can work on it anywhere in the world. It’s a very interesting trend. People developing technology in XR have a great future as they can work in all three industries, in XR, gaming and cinema.”
We also talked about the boundaries surrounding digital humans, avatars of the deceased, and the use of historical figures.
“It’s a tricky question,” said Esmiol, “We’ll have panels about these questions in Cannes NEXT.”
Anyone who has a pass to the Cannes Marche du Film will have full access to Cannes XR as well as Cannes NEXT.
Tribeca Festival Champions Storytelling Across Every Medium
Since being founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 in an effort to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tribeca has quickly established itself as one of the most respected film festivals in the United States.
Tribeca is about celebrating storytelling in all its forms, from film and TV to VR, gaming, and music. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca champions emerging and established voices, shines a spotlight on award-winning filmmakers and creators, curates innovative experiences, and introduces new technology and ideas through a combination of premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.
For the past three years, Tribeca has collaborated with the Cannes Marche du Film, bringing a selection of its works to Cannes XR. With XR3 and the addition of the NewImages Festival, Tribeca will be able to reach an even wider audience while presenting greater opportunities to creators.
“We had to think of how we could get the work we had programmed to an audience, working with the Museum of Other Realities to make a joint venture and joint venue,” said Hammonds, Vice President of Immersive Programming. “This year when we were approaching the best way to showcase immersive work in 2021, there are still concerns related to the pandemic around travel. Being an immersive exhibition is difficult these days, because you are asking people to trust in protocol, and hygiene. We are using hardware that is shared.”
“In New York, all our films are being shown in person, we have installations, and we wanted to make sure that the VR work wasn’t lost.”
XR3 will feature both 6DoF and 360-degree works, in addition to installations, spatial audio, and several augmented reality experiences happening in New York. These in-person events will take place mostly outdoors in order to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We wanted to bring a New York audience who is curious to be able to attend something they can actually touch,” Hammonds explained. “I want people to be aware of all the different offerings at Tribeca. It’s a very interesting moment for us to come together and have a platform for 6DoF VR. It will be a chance to see the different curation between the three festivals.”
“I’m excited for people to get back together, and to see this work. It’s important for us to heal, and to keep the industry going. I was worried that there would be a standstill, but instead, things have accelerated. There are all these opportunities to share work online now, and headset adoption is growing. It’s all very positive for the XR industry as a whole.”
NewImages Festival is Leading Global Collaborations
In the midst of a global pandemic, I was lucky enough to attend the NewImages Festival in Paris for their 2020 edition this past September. Against all odds, it was a huge success.
For the 2021 edition, Swierczynski, Director of NewImages, continued the festival’s commitment to democratizing the medium, exploring sustainable business models for XR, reaching new audiences, fostering global collaboration through VR creation residencies, and co-producing opportunities for culturally significant content.
Swierczynski is a driving force behind the festival’s vision to give a voice to those unheard, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic background.
“The VR works selected this year are multidisciplinary, they draw as much from cinema as from video games or live shows, with films from Africa in particular,” said Swierczynski.
Cultural institutions in France are in a unique position to receive public funding for projects, but Swierczynski is also going where no festival has gone before, creating relationships with institutions in Ecuador, Kenya, Sudan, Morocco, and South Africa, just to name a few.
“Historically there is support for culture in France, but no one asked us to be more international, it was uniquely our decision to speak with other countries and developing countries,” said Swierczynski, adding, “It’s more complex, but it’s more important.”
Similar to how NewImages partnered with the Kaohsiung Film Festival and the French Office in Taipei to create a residency program for Taiwanese and French artists to collaborate, Swierczynski wants to establish are relationship with all countries to have accelerators, co-production, residencies, and financing opportunities worldwide.
With public funding, NewImages is also dedicated to educating the public and providing access to works presented during the festival. During the festival, pop-up locations around the city featuring AR, photography, projection mapping, spatial audio, VR, and mixed-media experiences will be freely available to the public.
Despite France facing its third wave of a COVID-19—along with a great deal of the rest of the world—there will be even more live experiences this year in Paris.
As for what’s next, Swierczynski hopes to shine a spotlight on art from all over the world. “I want to make a permanent festival and metaverse world. We are not Fornite or Epic, I know that. We want to have an independent art metaverse.”
The XR3 Journey: What Happens When You Arrive in the Museum of Other Realities?
“It would have been easy to put the work up on the site and say download it and explore it,” said Hammonds, but this year they’ve prepared something entirely unique. “The idea was for us to have 3 sections, or wings. You have an opportunity to explore each festival’s curations,” explained Hammonds.
When I ask him what they learned from the 2020 event, he said, “Messaging. People need to understand as much as they can about the MOR. It’s a pretty hefty download to get access to all these pieces, but it’s just a one-time download now. After that, you don’t have to stop to download an experience, you can really go from installation to installation.”
“Tribeca is really known for our installations and creating an immersive space before you put the headset on,” continued Hammonds, describing the inspiration behind their approach.
“The MOR is also an innovative digital art gallery that provides access not only to the works but also to their distribution without borders,” added Swierczynski.
The Museum of Other Realities is a VR-only platform, accessible on SteamVR-compatible headsets such as the Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality. The full program will be available through the MOR app from June 9th to the 20th via SteamVR and Viveport. No worries if you can’t make the first event; a second showing is scheduled from July 6th to 15th.
As for the XR3 exhibition MOR being PCVR only, Raindance Immersive’s Maria Rakušanová—having curated her own outstanding XR festival experience—offered some great insight on this topic when we spoke with her last year.
From Tribeca Festival’s ties to Hollywood to Cannes XR’s deep roots in cinema and innovation to NewImages Festival’s goal of a unified festival platform—this year’s XR3 is situated to be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Cover Image: Meeting Crayons by Danny Bittman.