How to socialize at Sundance 2022 from your living room

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For $50 and an internet connection, you can experience many of the most exciting aspects of this year’s festival.

With all the talk on the Metaverse these days, there’s a silver lining at Sundance going entirely virtual for the second year in a row: you can see the tip up close. For $50 and a stable internet connection, anyone can access the social opportunities at Sundance this year, as well as some of the more ambitious aspects of its schedule, all from the comfort of their living room.

Again, those who purchase the festival’s $50 Explorer Pass can engage with the festival community from their computer browser or VR headset. Although that cost has doubled from last year, it’s still a decent investment if you put in the effort to use the technology he developed from the ground up. These passes don’t sell, and based on the experiences of many online visitors over the past year, they’re worth the price of admission.

The Explorer Pass grants access to the shorts, which are often where the festival’s best discoveries are made, as well as the ever-unpredictable TV experiences in Indie Episodic. When you consider that many blockbuster feature films will be released later this year, these two sections offer the most authentic opportunity to experience programming unique to the festival experience. Beyond that, the pass allows you to navigate the festival’s easy-to-use 3D environments, which have expanded their accessibility since last year. You can also purchase single-movie tickets for the lineup’s feature films for $20 apiece. (For details on how to purchase movie tickets this year, go here.)

Again, the best social option for Sundance requires you to create a digital avatar, in which case you can use your computer keyboard or a VR headset to wander through a series of virtual spaces. On your computer, when your avatar approaches other people, your face will appear as a small video chat window whenever you approach another person. You can find other avatars in the Film Party area, which has several “portals” that will lead you to other parties as well as the New Frontier gallery; this year, even those without a VR headset can also enter Cinema House, where live performances will take place.

If you’re a skeptical Sundance fanatic about all of this, listen, I get it: nothing can replace the adrenaline rush of the Sundance experience on the ground, as you rush from screenings to parties, treating the festival with your peers an hour at a time and meet new people in the process. In the same way, however, if this aspect of the festival really means anything to you, it would be a shame to ignore its virtual manifestation – especially now that it has improved from last year.

“Weirdly, from a user perspective, it’s just going to be more accessible,” said Shari Frilot, who programs Sundance’s New Frontier chapter and led the development of its virtual spaces for the second straight year. While Sundance sought a hybrid presence this year, the cancellation of the Park City event had no impact on plans for virtual opportunities. “We were building it to withstand a hairpin bend like this,” Frilot said. “New Frontier is actually going to see more action in different ways.”

In 2021, visits to New Frontier’s lineup grew from around 30,000 to 40,000, a number that flourished in tandem with the estimated half million views of features, shorts and episodes. . Now the festival is looking at that opportunity with an eye on even bigger numbers. “We just didn’t know how well this thing was going to work,” Frilot said. “This year we are working to bring the festival and New Frontier websites closer together.”

With all that in mind, here are the top ways to get the most out of socializing at Sundance in 2022.

Take a seat in the space garden

Anyone with a festival pass – including accredited press and industry members – automatically has access to Sundance’s social spaces as well as New Frontier. An introductory email will include a personalized link to “Space Garden”, a private 3D area where you can create an avatar and access the main virtual spaces. (Again, Sundance recommends using Google Chrome.) Each space can hold up to 100 avatars at a time, but if it reaches capacity, each newcomer will be sent to a new “instance.” (Think of it as an infinity room.) Avatars are kind of like Gumby with a Zoom circle etched into his head, but if you can get past that inherent disconnect, consider how easy it is to roam the Sundance grounds without altitude sickness and freezer.

movie night

Once you’ve created your avatar in the Space Garden, the most logical place to start is to navigate through the portal to Film Party. This large circular environment is the main social space, where avatars can meet and settle their plans. Last year, I often met filmmakers here under the same conditions as I would meet them IRL: one day, I went to Film Party to find Edgar Wright hanging out at the virtual bar, surrounded by a bunch of fans , which seemed about right. . I also met young people from across the country who were enthusiastically interested in the festival program for the first time and meeting new people in the process. It was a microcosm of how the festival community has evolved in recent years. “Film culture is evolving online,” Frilot said.

This development is allowed here by a fairly user-friendly interface. When you move your avatar towards another person, it creates a “bubble” in which you can interact. Anyone inside the bubble can get along. (The bubble’s capacity is down six to eight people from last year, so the noise doesn’t get overwhelming.) On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a list of everyone in the bubble. room, so you can easily find people you know. Here, the festival has added another important function: text chat. You no longer have to go looking for the people you came to see; instead, just send them a DM to track them down. In addition, all feature films in the lineup have their own space for a private party. The festival site will include a blog post listing all the smaller parties to save time. But don’t forget to check out the program itself.

Explore New Frontier in the spaceship

The sixteenth edition of Sundance’s New Frontier section is the latest opportunity to navigate innovative creativity, from interactive digital spaces to multi-faceted storytelling experiences. The spaceship is an expansive gallery (with stunning photorealistic views of Earth visible through the window) where portals to each part of the program can be found alongside descriptive text. These range from ‘Atua’, a sculptural AR experience that requires you to download an app on your phone, to ‘Godwana’, a virtual ecosystem showcasing the world’s oldest rainforest that you can visit multiple times during the festival. to assist with the impact of climate change. Some of the programming advice on gamification, including “The Inside World,” a mystery set in Vegas that involves AI and human actors as well as an NFT component.

The New Frontier virtual presentation at Sundance 2021

As usual, the range’s VR experiences require a headset. The release of the Oculus Quest 2 (now known as Meta Quest) brought VR into more homes than ever before, so if you’ve invested in one you should be able to access five of the festival’s nine VR works. (the others require a wired headset). “Interestingly, the field of XR has been very robust and healthy throughout the past year, especially with the wider adoption of the metaverse,” Frilot said.

Live shows in the cinema hall

One of the biggest developments from last year’s virtual Sundance experience is that the Cinema House, a large theater filled with virtual seats and a stage below its screen, is now accessible through the browser. . That means you don’t have to have a headset to experience some of the coolest virtual events on this year’s schedule. This includes the opening night selection “32 Sounds”, from innovative documentarian Sam Green. Building on his standout ‘7 Sounds’ which performed at the festival last year, the new feature is a 95-minute live performance about auditory experiences that includes live music and narration with a visual component .

Additional Cinema House programming includes live events such as “Cosmogany,” in which the Gilles Jobin dance studio in Geneva will feature three dancers captured in motion acting as puppeteers of their own bodies. “Suga” goes one step further to create an immersive experience that captures live dancers in a volumetric space to recreate the transatlantic trade route. “It lets you understand the sugar industry through the prism of the slaves who came on that boat,” Frilot said. “Dancers perform live in a sugar factory. You have to be in it to understand how special it is. It comes with so much heart and thought. As Americans, we have such a hard time dealing with slavery in our culture. It gives us a whole new way to approach this open wound.

Frilot knows that many people will be reluctant to embrace the virtual Sundance over the alternative which has been canceled again this year. “We’re going to miss being in person. There is something really special and irreplaceable about it,” she said. “But the ability to socialize in a 3D space platformer is super special and very exciting.”

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