Cannes NEXT Explores New VR Storytelling Trends

Cannes NEXT, now in its second year, displayed a variety of cutting-edge immersive content.

Last month, Cannes NEXT brought classic filmgoers and distributors into contact with the best in 360° and roomscale VR. Even the Duke of Luxembourg himself descended the stairs of the Palais des Festivals for his first VR experience: Arden’s Wake.

From nearly fifty experiences, here were the standout pieces that illuminate the future of storytelling in VR.

Arden’s Wake

Penrose Studios’ newest animation tells the hauntingly beautiful story of Mina and her father, who live in a floating shack above a post-apocalyptic, underwater San Francisco. Scaled like a dollhouse to offer a persistent complete view of the action, the story also affords viewers the ability to bring their head “in” and “out” of the house and water—immersing the viewer in a quasi-godlike and elemental presence.

Penrose developed their own toolset to make this kind of storytelling possible, notably the “Maestro VR Collaborator.” At NEXT they hinted they might be releasing a special toolset for Unreal programmers, so keep an eye out for announcements later this year.


Inspired by the Aztec codes—a guide through the seven levels of the afterlife—this multiplayer interactive installation features an elegant wooden hammock fitted with an LED drum. Depending on how the ‘Shaman’ plays the drum, the viewer sees the different levels more clearly as they ascend through a simulation reminiscent of Android Jones’s Samskara. With vibrations from the strikes of the mallet reverberating through the hammock, this experience combines organic haptics, interactivity, and stunning graphics—culminating in an absorptive, tactile, and altogether distinct immersive experience.

The Swedish student creators, Patrick Donaldson, Yoann Douillet, Raphaël Henocq and Laurent Monnet, are planning to share Ximoan for both a full dome experience and a portable version to enjoy at home.

Separate Silences

After taking off my shoes and lying down on a hospital cot, Separate Silences Co-Creator Maria Engermann tucked me in and placed a Samsung Gear VR on my head. I was suddenly transported to a hospital, where I was being given an experimental serum to bring me back from a coma. As the nurse took my hand, I felt the physical warmth of human touch on my fingers. The team was hard at work providing real world stimuli to bring me deeper into the experience.

From the scent of cinnamon, to the feeling of the wind, this physical immersion provided a deeply personal experience. I hope to see more of this type of performative real-world immersion technique in the future—especially accompanied with such beautiful, tender storytelling.

See how the Danish students achieved stereoscopic 360 with two Samsung Gear VRs:

About the Scout

Fifer Garbesi

Fifer Garbesi is a VR Producer and journalist based in the Bay Area, passionate about new technology and underground culture.

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