SXSW Kicks Off Today In VR With Live Events, Virtual Screenings, And More

Explore a whimsical recreation of the infamous Austin-based festival on your Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, or SteamVR headset.

Today marks the beginning of the 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival, an annual celebration of film, music, and interactive media which—since its founding in 1987—has since established itself as one of the most highly-anticipated and widely talked-about pop culture events of the year.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the cancellation of most in-person events, this year event organizers were forced to pivot to an online format. Similar to the Sundance virtual celebration conducted this past January, SXSW Online XR allows you the chance to experience this year’s festivities from the comfort of your home using the power of VR.

By logging into the popular VR social platform VRChat via an Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, and SteamVR headset, attendees can explore a custom world composed of virtual recreations of famous Austin venues like the Cedar Street Courtyard, Contemporary Austin, Empire Control Room & Garage, Mohawk, Paramount Theatre, and Red River Cultural District. Here attendees can attend virtual screenings of expertly-crafted 360-degree films, explore a catalog of engaging interactive experiences, participate in a wide range of live talks and performances, and enjoy a variety of live musical performances, after-parties, and meetups.

“SXSW really wanted to create a space in the virtual world that brought Austin to life in a spectacular way,” said Blake Kammerdiener, XR and Film Programmer in an official release. “So we came together with Louis Cacciuttolo and his company VRrOOm, whose recent work includes Welcome to The Other Side with Jean-Michel Jarre, and artist Vincent Masson to create this fantastical virtual space that honors Austin, and a few of the venues that we are gutted to not be using this year.”

“Attendees can come together, explore these worlds, and watch content created specifically for the VR world and from the greater SXSW Online video channels,” Kammerdiener continued. “Stop by the Paramount Theatre to snap a picture on the red carpet with your friends or head on over to the Red River Cultural District for a party. Be sure to find virtual Theon Cross rocking his tuba or stop by the Contemporay’s rooftop bar to catch a live session.”

Designed by social XR developer VRrOOm, this colorful virtual world does a commendable job at offering attendees an entertaining alternative to the usual in-person celebration. With teleportation deactivated, visiting different venues means physically navigating your way throughout a sprawling virtual city. Thankfully, there are multiple means for traversing this surprisingly-large digital landscape, whether it be stepping behind the wheel of your own personal go-kart or catching a ride using one of the many transportation drones lining the streets. You can even immortalize the moment using several selfie stations scattered throughout the world.

For a full breakdown of SXSW Online XR’s live events, Virtual Cinema offerings, and meet-ups and parties visit here. While this year’s festivities feature no shortage of incredible content, the following 360-degree films, interactive experiences, and live events have us particularly excited:

Space Explorers: The ISS Experience Episode 2: Advance (Canada, United States) Director: Félix Lajeunesse, Screenwriters: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Producers: Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios:

“The Largest production ever filmed in space, Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is. an epic four-part immersive series that invites you to join eight astronauts on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station.”

Finding Pandora X Director: Kiira Benzing, Screenwriter: Alyssa Landry, Producers: Kiira Benzing, Lara Bucarey, Chris Dawes, Alyssa Landry:

“With the passing of ages, the Gods of Mount Olympus have faded away until only two remain: Zeus and Hera, Now they are in danger of disappearing if they can’t recover the box of hope that Pandora removed. (North American Premiere).”

Making of Reeducated: A VR New Yorker Documentary

Reeducated is a first-of-its-kind 3D 360 VR documentary about detention in Xinjiang, China, guided by the overlapping recollections of three men who were imprisoned together at the same facility. Part of a major multimedia project from The New Yorker, the 20-minute immersive film is based on more than a dozen hours of interviews and uses hand-drawn watercolor cel animation and ambisonic sound to visualize an otherwise inaccessible, authoritarian space. Filmmakers Sam Wolson and Ben Mauk discuss the making of this project and the difficulties of reporting on Xinjiang that led them to working with firsthand witness accounts, animation, and VR.”

Once Upon a Sea (Canada) Director: Adi Lavy, Screenwriter: Heidi Miller, Producers: Ina Fichman, Nimrod Shanit:

“Once upon a Sea is a stunning, immersive trip to the Dead Sea region, the lowest place on earth – and it is our call to action. If nothing is done, the Dead Sea as we know it will be gone for good. (North American Premiere).”

Welcome To The Other Side – Cryptoart

“Following the electronic music legend Jean-Michel Jarre’s NYE concert spectacular in a virtual Notre-Dame, explore the crypto art exhibition based on the concert highlights, featuring digital pictures and videos authored by the French artist. (World Premiere).”

SXSW Online XR is available now until March 20th; tickets start at $399. This grants you access to the entire program, including the Art Program, Live Sessions, Meet Ups and PartiesSpecial Events, and Virtual Cinema.

Feature Image Credit: SXSW, LLC

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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